Wood: Let's sort out the future

  • Last Updated: March 31 2014, 16:18 BST

Rugby Football League chief executive Nigel Wood is urging Australia and New Zealand to stop dragging their heels on the international game and capitalise on the success of the 2013 World Cup.

Old Trafford drew a record international rugby league attendance
Old Trafford drew a record international rugby league attendance

In his role of RLWC2013 tournament director, Wood revealed on Monday that he would be handing over a pre-tax profit of more than £4million to the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) but expressed his frustration at the absence of a detailed plan for the worldwide game over the next four years.

The RLIF announced last month that the 2017 World Cup would be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand but, four months on from their heartbreaking semi-final lost to New Zealand, England are still waiting to discover their next fixture.

The schedule for the 2014 Four Nations Series is expected to be announced on Tuesday morning, with Brisbane hosting a double-header on the weekend of October 26, England taking on Australia in Melbourne a week later and Wellington staging the final on November 15.

But that has left tour organisers just six months to put together packages and Wood says there is even more frustration over delays in finalising the proposed return of the British and Irish Lions tour down under in 2015.

Wood would like to see some of the cash generated from 2013 used to create a full-time executive for the RLIF and will call for a qualifying tournament for the 2017 World Cup to be put in place as a priority when he attends the annual meeting in Sydney on May 2.

"We owe that to the (smaller) nations," said Wood, who is deputy chairman of the RLIF. "They need to know what they are playing for.

"We believe the international game is capable of a lot more than is being delivered at the moment. You want to capitalise on how international rugby league has been elevated.

"I think most sports would expect to know where the following season's internationals were being played.

"I'm less concerned about 2014 than I am about 2015 because we've been promoting the possibility of a Lions tour for about three years now.

"A lot of people say it's the right think to do but we can't invite ourselves to somebody else's party. They've got to decide they want to host the party. We're chomping at the bit to go."

The RFL has been under growing pressure to restore the Lions tours, which were scrapped when Great Britain was formally divided into the home nations ahead of the 2008 World Cup, and decided not to stage the Four Nations in 2015 to avoid a clash with the rugby union World Cup.

The next major tournament to be held in the UK, therefore, will be the 2016 Four Nations Series.

Meanwhile, Wood told a press conference in Salford that the 2013 World Cup delivered on all its pre-tournament promises and has provided a lasting legacy for the sport.

"I think history will look fondly on what I think will be regarded as a halcyon six weeks for the sport," Wood said.

"When the audit is complete, we will be reporting a profit in excess of £3.7m from a turnover north of £15m."

It is expected that the final figure will enable organisers to double the profit of £2m generated by the 2008 World Cup held in Australia.

The 2013 tournament drew an aggregate crowd of 458,463, including an international record attendance of 74,468 for the final between Australia and New Zealand at Old Trafford.

Organisers reported eight sell-outs and eight stadium record crowds for rugby league matches.

Tournament general manager Sally Bolton also spoke about the financial impact on the towns and cities which hosted matches, claiming that Cardiff benefited to the tune of £8.4m from hosting the opening ceremony and double header and that London enjoyed a £12.3m bonus from the semi-final double header.

South Africa are expected to submit a bid to host the 2021 World Cup after losing out in 2017 but Wood said it was a "distinct possibility" that the RFL would also seek to act as hosts once more.

"I think the International Federation needs to decide when is the right time to go beyond the UK and Australia and New Zealand," Wood said. "South Africa put a very interesting bid which demonstrated an appetite to host international events."

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