New IRL chairman Troy Grant pressing France to host 2025 Rugby League World Cup
New International Rugby League chairman Troy Grant is pressing for France to host the next Rugby League World Cup in 2025.
France, who hosted the inaugural tournament in 1954, are set to fill the hole created by the collapse of the bid by provisional hosts America, who are now being seen by Grant as a potential venue for 2029.
Grant, a former NSW Police Minister and Deputy Premier who has succeeded New Zealander Greg Barclay as chairman of the international body, outlined his vision at a media briefing conducted via zoom in which he promised transparency and accessibility.
Grant, who was appointed as an independent director in February 2020, says the IRL has ditched the traditional bidding process for hosting World Cups and he has begun talks over 2025 with new French president Luc Lacoste.
“France has to be a strategic priority,” he said. “Hopefully we can build a compelling argument for the French Government to be the host in partnership with us.
“I pitched to the French Government that the Rugby League World Cup would be a trifecta of international events following the Rugby World Cup in 2023 and the Paris Olympics in 2024.
“We have to get that development back into France, which will be critical for another step up into broader Europe as well.
“They are happy to either have it wholly within France or look at a multi-nation format with France as the lead.”
Grant, who plans to make a decision on the next venue before the start of this year’s World Cup on October 23, says North America, which will see a semi-professional league launched on Wednesday, remains a target for the international game.
“North America is definitely a key market and my personal view is that it should be the 2029 destination for the World Cup,” he said.
“The reason for not going there in 2025 is that it went to a bidding process where the proponent fell over financially. That left us in the lurch but it has created an opportunity to look at France.”
Grant says the 2020 Ashes Series, which fell victim to the coronavirus pandemic, is unlikely to be re-scheduled for 2022 and suggests New Zealand could instead provide the opposition for England next year.
“Traditionally, countries like a lighter year of content following a World Cup,” he said.
The next Ashes Series could take place in 2023, possibly to coincide with the next World 9s, and Grant says he is confident a 10-year calendar will finally be put in place as the IRL looks to “get our act in order”.
“That has been an Achilles heel of the IRL for a long time, to not have that clarity about when competitions are played,” he said.
Because the IRL currently does not have enough clout, it means this year’s mid-season international window is likely to be a one-off, with a move to the end of the season likely from 2022.
“We’re targeting the end of the year to have the international window so it doesn’t corrupt the professional leagues,” said Grant, who is hoping to strengthen the IRL’s hand through negotiation.
“It’s finding a delicate balance and I believe the way to get these issues resolved is by having really authentic and strong relationships with the two professional leagues.
“Before becoming a director I reached out to club CEOs in the NRL to understand their thinking and where they see international rugby league fitting in with their demands.
“They said to a person it was the first time the IRL had ever spoken to them. I think the relationship we have with the ARL, the RFL and the professional clubs is stronger than it’s been for a long time.”
Grant says the IRL is also exploring the possibility of private equity investment and is pushing for an alignment of the laws of the game between the NRL and the RFL.