A record number of at least 28 nations will be playing officially sanctioned international rugby league in 2015, with the total set to rise reflecting increased global activity.
By the end of the year, New Zealand – who face Australia in the ANZAC Test in May and travel to England for a three-match series in the autumn – could be established as the top nation, the first time since the World Rankings were instituted that anyone other than the Kangaroos have headed them.
Also already scheduled are a Pacific Series, European Championships at A, B and C level, as well as the Scandinavian Cup and matches in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Middle East; plus World Cup qualifiers for the 2017 tournament in the Antipodes set to be unveiled.
“It is great to see the breadth of international teams who are competing in 2015,” said Graeme Thompson, Chair of the RLIF competitions committee.
“It will be fascinating to see England and New Zealand lock horns again after their recent dramatic clashes and we also have other developing rivalries such as Belgium and the Netherlands playing this year.
“There is a lot of stake this year in international RL and a lot to excite.”
The RLIF has worked with member nations for the past three years to ensure that all recognised international matches are approved, eligibility of players is checked and facilities for the games meet suitable requirements.
Across the world this has driven up the standards of administration in emerging national governing bodies, ensuring that they are recruiting and developing more home-produced players as domestic leagues increase.