Return of Lions and Kangaroos tours announced by Rugby League chiefs

The return of the Lions and Kangaroos tours has been announced by the Rugby League International Federation.

That is the main feature of a four-year calendar outlined at a meeting in Sydney on Tuesday.

This year's World Cup will be followed by a New Zealand tour to Europe in 2018, a Great Britain and Ireland Lions tour to the southern hemisphere in 2019 and a Kangaroos tour to Europe in 2020.

RLIF chairman Nigel Wood said: "I am sure supporters will welcome the re-introduction of Lions, Kangaroos and Kiwi tours in particular but the calendar provides new opportunities for all our members and embraces the expansion of Nines, providing an exciting future for players, supporters and members alike."

The four-year cycle also includes an Emerging Nations Championship in 2018 leading up the 2021 World Cup which will be hosted by the Rugby Football League in the UK.

The RLIF board announced that World Cup qualification will be concluded two years in advance, with the line-up for 2021 to be completed by December 2019.

The international governing body also pledged to support the development of tier-two nations, those outside the big three, by working with continental federations to strengthen existing regional competitions in Europe, Asia Pacific, the Americas and Middle East/Africa.

A dedicated mid-season international weekend will be created, giving nations an opportunity to build on the success of this year's Pacific Test Series in Sydney.

The RLIF are also committed to putting together a business plan for international Nines with the potential for a World Cup for men and women in 2019 and for both youth and women's nines to become a part of the Commonwealth Games Festival in 2018.

Traditionalists will welcome the return of the Lions, although the national team will continue as England for the World Cups and incoming tours.

The tours will also inevitably be much shorter than their predecessors because the two competitions now run in tandem and so will eat into the traditional close season.

When the Kangaroos make their first tour since 2003, they will play at least three Test matches against England and one against France.

The history of the Lions goes back to 1908 with an incoming tour by New Zealand, while the first Great Britain tour Down Under took place two years later.

Great Britain was disbanded in 2007 after a 3-0 series whitewash of New Zealand, ahead of the 2008 World Cup, with England taking their place in the Four Nations Series which now appears to have been discarded.


KEYWORDS: lions, kangaroos, rugby

 

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