By Richard Cowley, Date: 18/2/14
On the back of the highly successful 2013 Rugby League World Cup in the UK and France, the Rugby League International Federation are set to announce the 2017 Rugby League World Cup hosts.
Only two bids have been submitted to date. One bid from long shots South Africa the other being a joint bid from Australia and New Zealand.
South Africa who participated in both the 1995 and 2000 Rugby League World Cups missed out on qualifying for the 2013 version of the tournament. Their bid has been a credible one with Steeden South Africa jumping on-board to support the bid. The South African Rugby League sees the World Cup as a way to give the sport much needed exposure in South Africa. The tournament would spread the world and bring new interest and sponsorship to the game. It will also assist to get the sport formally recognised by the local sporting body that still sees League as a hybrid game of the 15 man code.
In October last year Kobus Botha provided his opinion on the importance of South Africa hosting the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. “A World Cup in South Africa makes more sense when you look at the bigger picture of where rugby league is globally. The sport has been growing bit by bit over the past few years, but has always been dominant in Australia, New Zealand and England. So when one of the “big 3” hosts, it doesn’t really mean anything in terms of international development. A World Cup in Australia does not grow the sport; it’s a “thank you” to the ARL and will be mostly attended by Australians. But since it is already the biggest sport in Australia there will be no drive to develop the game more. However, have it in South Africa and more than 500 000 players start playing the game as they want to represent South Africa. SARL needs to develop the game at various levels, and yes, it will not be easy, but it will add more than half a million players, and more than five million supporters to the global game.”
Australia and New Zealand are the favourites to host the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. The 2013 RLWC has been hailed as the best RLWC yet with Australia and New Zealand not to be outdone by their Northern Hemisphere brothers. The joint bid will be looking to take the World Cup to the next level as it rugby league at international level continues to grow.
The game of Rugby League has seen its popularity rise in both Australia and New Zealand in recent years. Both the ARLC and NZRL would love to capitalise on the exposure the World Cup would give the sport if they were to host the 2017 tournament.
The RLIF are set to announce the winning bid this Wednesday at 7am UK time / 6pm Australian Eastern Standard time. The RLIF will more than likely take the easy road and award New Zealand and Australia with hosting rights. But one has to say if South Africa was to win, rugby league would get some pretty serious exposure outside the big three for the first time in its history.