Well it’s amazing what can happen in a week of rugby league. We just witnessed one of the all-time classic rugby league games where in the 1st Semi-Final New Zealand pulled a rabbit out of their hat with 20 seconds on the clock and pulled the World Cup rug out from under the English rugby league team. The game will be talked about for years to come.
The 2nd Semi-Final match between Australia and Fiji was a one sided affair. It was not meant to end this way for a Fijian team that had captured the hearts and minds of the rugby league public. Rugby League hero Petro deserved to bow out of rugby league on a higher note. But rugby league players and rugby league fans don’t always get the fairy-tale finish they hoped for, especially when it comes to international rugby league.
Throughout the year there has been different snippets of how the 4th team will qualify for the 2014 Rugby League Four Nations. The first theory doing the rounds was the two highest placed Pacific Nations in the 2013 RLWC would play each other in a qualifying match. This sounded like a logical progression and would give the nation a hit-out before they took on the Powerhouses of Australia, England and New Zealand.
The 2nd theory was awarding the 4th place in the 2014 Four Nations to the highest placed team in the 2013 RLWC. Once again this seemed like a fair way to award the highest placed Pacific team and build on the progress made thus far.
Then Fiji went down to Australia 64 – 0 in the World Cup Semi-Final.
Now the rumours are falling back to the original idea of a play-off between the top two Pacific Nations which in this case would be Fiji and Samoa. Have the RLIF along with Australia and New Zealand hit panic stations? Will the Four Nations survive the aftermath of Fiji’s Semi-Final defeat? Is there any reason why it has taken so long for the RLIF to officially confirm the process for which the 4th nation will qualify?
Is the 2014 Rugby League Four Nations to be, or not to be?
The RLIF no matter what the pressure must persist with the Four Nations concept. It is a key way to help the next level of nations bridge the gap between the big three. If the RLIF are really serious about spreading the game they would award the 4th Nation a home tie against England. Imagine the good it would do for the development of the game to have a Four Nations match in Suva or Apia.
Much has been made about keeping the international matches going outside the World Cup to assist the Pacific Nations, Home Nations and France bridge the gap. Keeping the Four Nations concept is a start. Putting on regular Pacific Cup and European Cup competition is probably just as important. We need players to commit to these 2nd tier nations to build more competitive teams. This will never happen if they only ever play anything meaningful every four years.
Let’s look to strengthen the 2nd tier nations now. When the 2017 Rugby League World Cup comes around the tournament and the game of rugby league will be much better for it.