Jon Dutton, the 2021 Rugby League World Cup chief executive, believes it is imperative Australia tour England for an Ashes series beforehand to help “set the tournament alight.”
The Rugby League International Federation has been meeting for a four-day congress in York this week to help, among other things, finalise the international calendar in the build up to the next World Cup on these shores.
Dutton has been charged with maximising the 2021 event and he spoke yesterday about helping to create a lasting legacy from the tournament having learned lessons from the last time it was held in the UK in 2013. However, key to that, he believes, is for England – bidding to complete a series whitewash against New Zealand tomorrow – facing the Kangaroos over three Tests in this country 12 months out from the World Cup.
“We’ve been absolutely clear that we need England to be playing the Kangaroos at home in 2020 to set the tournament alight,” said Dutton.
“We’ve presented our plans to the RLIF and it was warmly received.”
It will be hoped that schedule can be confirmed imminently with Great Britain, in all likelihood, reconvening to tour New Zealand in 2019.
Details of the draw and the pools for 2021 are due to be announced by the RLIF on Monday.
Although the 2013 World Cup drew an aggregate attendance of 458,000 and delivered a handsome profit, Dutton says organisers are committed to making the next one the biggest and best yet.
“This has to be a mega sporting event that transcends rugby league,” he said.
“If we are really honest about 2013, we worked with a small team on a shoestring budget and focused on delivering a tournament and filling venues and there wasn’t a demonstrable legacy programme.”
Organisers secured £25m worth of Government funding, including £10m currently available to community clubs to ensure a visible and lasting legacy.
Dutton hopes to see around 50 major projects delivered out of that, whether it be a new clubhouse for an amateur club or a new artificial pitch to aid training.
A short-list of 20 potential venues will be cut to 14 in January, with emphasis on moving from towns to cities and only grounds with a capacity of at least 12,000 considered as hosts.
There is a commitment to staging games in London but 80 per cent of fixtures will be held in the northern powerhouse.
Dutton added they will glean positives from the 2013 World Cup such as the success of midweek games at the likes of Rochdale and Leigh and that is something they aim to continue in 2021.
Meanwhile, England rugby director Kevin Sinfield’s contract with the RFL is up at the end of the year but he is set to continue in the role.
He was appointed Leeds Rhinos director of rugby in July but his club are happy for him to carry on working with the national set-up.
“I’d love to stay involved,” he said, with Sinfield pivotal in England’s plans for the 2021 World Cup.
“I’ve really enjoyed the last two years and am happy with the progress we’ve made. My contract is up at the end of the year but it’s not an issue. There is an appetite for both sides to continue.”