British and Irish Lions tour down under back on in 2019

Ralph Rimmer
Ralph Rimmer

The British and Irish Lions tour down under in 2019 is back on following a two-day meeting of Rugby League International Federation delegates in Singapore.

A commitment to reinstate the Lions tours was made by the Rugby Football League last year but thrown into doubt by a recent counter-proposal from Australia, who instead wanted the Kangaroos to tour the UK in 2019.

However, the RLIF says it has brokered an agreement for the Lions to tour the southern hemisphere in 2019 and 2024, while the Kangaroos will tour the UK in 2020 and New Zealand will follow up this year's tour with a similar visit to the UK in 2022.

The RLIF board says it has agreed to undertake consultation with stakeholders to finalise details for the next two four-year cycles to present to a planned World Rugby League Congress in the UK in November.

Key elements of the new calendar include:

  • Rugby League World Cup in 2021 and 2025
  • Kangaroos Tour to UK in 2020
  • Kiwi Tour to UK in 2018 and 2022
  • Lions tour to southern hemisphere in 2019 and 2024
  • Nines World Cup in 2019 and 2023
  • 2019 Championships for the Pacific nations in a mid and end of season
  • 2018 European Championship (and then at two-year intervals)
  • 2018 Australia v New Zealand Test (annually to 2022)

"There's clearly still some detail to be finalised but this is a fantastic announcement that has been a long time coming," said RLIF chairman John Grant.

"It should give great heart and confidence to our international community.

"It reflects the broad diversity that exists across our RLIF member nations and we believe it can provide the certainty our fans, players and commercial stakeholders need to make long-term commitments to international rugby league."

The Kangaroos tour in 2020 will delight the Rugby Football League, who wanted a high-profile international programme that year to increase interest in the 2021 World Cup to be held in England.

However, there is no confirmation in the draft plan for England's annual mid-season Test in the United States.

The international against New Zealand in Denver in June was part of a three-year agreement with Australian promoter Jason Moore to which the RFL say it remains committed.

The match went ahead despite opposition from the NRL and the Australian players association over player welfare issues and the RLIF has agreed to hold a review into the process and criteria it applies to sanctioning international matches.

"The Denver Test exposed all of us alike to this performance standard and has been a positive catalyst for this review," said RLIF chief executive Nigel Wood, the former RFL chief executive.

The board will also work on proposals for governance reform and agreed a range of constitutional changes to be brought before a general meeting in the UK in November.

The summit in Singapore was attended by RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer and chairman Brian Barwick, who stepped down from the board after four and a half years.

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