Updated: Saturday, 4th April 2020 @ 10:16am

Comment: Rugby league can provide tonic for World Cup and Burgess debacle

Comment: Rugby league can provide tonic for World Cup and Burgess debacle

| By Kayley Dickinson

Amidst a time of misery for English rugby, the nation’s rugby league team will this weekend take the London limelight as they face New Zealand at the Olympic Stadium in the second game of their three-match series.

A win for the hosts will hand them the series following their convincing opening victory against the south hemisphere giants last Sunday.

Rugby league has the chance to give those suffering from England rugby union’s World Cup devastation a taste of patriotic success and will be looking to do so in front of a packed London crowd.

Victory against New Zealand would be the icing on an ever-mounting cake for a rugby league community currently sitting on cloud nine following the news of Sam Burgess’s return to the sport.

Despite league’s delight at the news, fans of both codes will agree that the circumstances of his union exit are not pretty.

Described by Sir Clive Woodward as “an all-time low” and one of the “most embarrassing points in English rugby history”, the Burgess fiasco has led us all to question the professionalism of the RFU.

Woodward, who coached England to World Cup glory in 2003, admitted that English rugby’s handling of the Burgess situation has landed in the palm of its critics.

“The rest of the world says those involved in English rugby are arrogant. I hate this reputation, but that is exactly what the RFU have been,” he said.

English rugby union has now suffered a double-blow however a miserable World Cup can be overcome.

The tournaments will keep coming for Stuart Lancaster’s team, but players of Sam Burgess’s calibre will not.  And that is the real shame.

Burgess is a hero in the eyes of league fans across the world, but it’s hard not to feel sorry for union fans, robbed by the RFU of the chance to witness a true great who would have undoubtedly excelled at their game.

The RFU’s troubles will be the last thing on the minds of the 13 players taking to the Olympic Stadium pitch tomorrow though as England RL look to ensure New Zealand go home without the success of their union counterparts.  

English rugby league has experienced its fair share of heartache on the global stage in recent years, most notably at the hands of the Kiwis, but test victory over New Zealand will provide international success to a sport that craves it.  

The RFL’s decision to take this match to London is brave, considering the northern roots of the game.

Brave, but necessary.

The bravery of the RFL contributed greatly to the success of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, with the sport being taken to areas of the country it had never before graced.

This is something that Jon Dutton, Operations Director for the 2013 RLWC, believes is crucial for success of the game.

“We used 21 different venues,” he said.

“We went to some venues that perhaps raised an eyebrow in terms of awarding those the status. But they were some of the real success stories.

“Bristol was a bit of a risk for us, but 95% of people inside the stadium were from that local community and that was needed to help produce success.”

Today's game further implements this strategy, providing London with the rights to host what could be a monumental day for English rugby league.

With tickets starting at £22, spectators can watch England for nearly £10 cheaper than if they were to sit at a Sale Sharks match.

For some, this game is appealing as it offers them the most affordable chance to attend an event at the Olympic Stadium. 

England RL have a fantastic chance to put their sport on the map with victory over New Zealand tomorrow and can provide international sporting success to a nation suffering a RWC hangover. 

Image courtesy of GilletteVideosUK via YouTube, with thanks.