By Brian Lowe, Date: 10/2/2016
In the wake of the news from the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) that the number of teams competing at the 2021 World Cup will be increased by two, there has been a lot of discussion about where those extra teams should come from and the Americas are in that conversation.
RLIF CEO David Collier says the increase is warranted because of the growth of Rugby League around the world, which is why they want to bump up the 2021 RLWC to four pools of four countries.
The USA Hawks emerged from the 2017 RLWC Qualifying series in December as the successful team from the Americas punching their ticket to Australia and New Zealand next year, but there is an argument that a second team from the Americas should be one of the additional two teams given the competitiveness of the Hawks’ rivals Canada and Jamaica.
One man who is of that opinion is Canadian head coach Aaron Zimmerle.
He says the closeness of the results between all three countries in the RLWCQ, suggests there is merit in adding another team from this region as one of the qualifiers.
He believes the standard of play displayed by all three teams was as good as, if not better, than that of European sides such as Serbia and Russia.
“I haven’t seen much of the other competing nations, but would be in favour of an Emerging Nations Cup the two years in between the World Cups,” said Zimmerle.
“That way you could have the Americans playing against the Europeans on Crossovers. You could have the two finalists as automatic qualifiers for the World Cup, plus the winners of each of the pools.
“Would mean that nations are constantly playing to accrue points for seeding and then playing off in a finals series to be the Emerging Nations Champions. Adds prestige, as they are most likely not going to be overly successful in the actual World Cup, but still have something to hang their hat on.”
The Wolverines supremo, who was recently re-appointed as coach of the Queensland Residents side by the QRL in Australia, thinks there are enough countries playing Rugby League that are good enough to warrant adding another two teams to the RLWC.
“Yes there are enough countries striving to build the game,” he said. “The growth over the last 5-10 years has been amazing, but they need support and incentives.”
Zimmerle also feels the Americas are on the right trajectory for putting forward a case that a second qualifier from this part of the world should be given some serious consideration.
“The Americas have shown great competiveness within their pool, and with IRL support can establish a foothold in a niche market,” he added.
“The rivalry between Canada and USA is also a bonus, because it is so entrenched already.”