World Cup 2013 – One Step Forward Two Steps Back!

By Daniel Andruczyk

So by now we have all heard that the 2013 World Cup Finals will be at 14 teams. However its the structure and the way teams will qualify which is the truly the interesting part. Apparently 20 teams will only be allowed to fight it out! One step forward, two steps back I say. Lets dissect this and see what it really does for the game and the possibilities of the Cup.

2013 World Cup Gets 20 teams

2008 saw a successful Rugby League World Cup staged in Australia and a AU$5 million profit made. Optimism was awash through the ranks of the fans and administrators of the International Game. Despite 10 teams playing in the finals overall 18 teams participated in the World Cup from qualifiers through to the finals.

The 2013 World Cup was announced to be in the UK and there was a meeting last week of the RLIF in Singapore to decide on its (RLWC2013) structure. It was announced on the 23rd of February that the World Cup Finals will be expanded to 14 with apparently 20 teams fighting for qualification. In some ways this is a step backwards having 8 teams having to fight out for two spots.

What is the point?

It is understood that the first 10 teams will be made up of the countries that competed in 2008, i.e. Australia, New Zealand, England, France, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Ireland and Scotland. Two more spots will go to Wales and The Cook Island automatically . This leaves just two spots to be fought out. Two qualification tournaments will be held in 2012. One can be best described as the Atlantic Nations Cup and will feature the United States of America, Jamaica, Japan and South Africa. The winner of this group will take one spot. The other spot will come from the winner of Italy, Lebanon, Serbia and Russia(?). So all in all ONLY 20 nations will be “allowed” to compete for places in the 2013 World Cup.

This means that nations like Germany, The Czech Republic, Greece, Malta, Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, Morocco, Catalonia (Spain), Japan etc… who have been working hard on spreading the game and have been competing for many years, now wont get a chance to participate at all for the 2013 World Cup. So what’s the point of these nations putting in the hard yards only to be told that its all for nothing?

So much for Eligibility!

This point is the one that really disturbs me. In 2009, international qualification regulations were modified due to dissatisfaction about players representing different nations too easily. It now states

“Players who have represented one country in World Cup qualifiers would now “not be permitted” to play for a different one in the World Cup tournament.”

The rule change did not apply to players who had played for a country in a Test series or non-World Cup related tournament and applications must still be made to the RLIF for those changes to be permitted (source).

Now lets have a really close look at this. We have 12 nations, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands, England, France, Wales, Scotland and Ireland all NOT playing any qualifiers for RLWC2013! So the players in these 12 countries are free… yes FREE… to jump swap and change as they please and still make a farce out of this rule.

Only the “minnow nations” of USA, Lebanon, Serbia, Russia(?), Japan, Italy, South Africa and Jamaica, who do have to play qualifiers will be forced to have to adhere to this rule.

BUT WAIT! I hear you say… this isn’t so bad. Lets assume Italy are one of the nations that qualify through, it means that a player in one of the top 12 who doesn’t get selected and has Italian ancestry can go and play for Italy without repercussions? Well sure, they still have to apply for the change and probably get it, but what if all these players start doing that near the world cup? So all the domestic players that fought it out on the pitch now will be relegated to nowhere and not get the chance to play in the World Cup? That is highly unfair I feel and so what the point in the future for those local lads to want to step up to the plate again to play for their nations when they know they will just get shifted again?


With 14 teams to in the 2013 World Cup finals it will be interesting to see what the structure will be. The simplest and fairest way that I can see is that there will be four groups, with two groups of four and two groups of three. The former will possibly play as two super pools where the top three qualify through to the quarter-finals and the top nation of the later also go through. So a possibility would be:

  • Group A: Australia, England, Fiji, Europe Qualifier
  • Group B: New Zealand, France, Ireland, Atlantic Qualifier
  • Group C: Tonga, Scotland, Cook Islands
  • Group D: Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Wales

Expect that for the quarter finals will be done like this. Group A and B will be the Super groups. The top two from these go through automatically to the Semis, the top team from groups C and D will also get through. the third placed team of group A to play the second placed team from D for the 7th spot in the quarters and the 3rd placed team in group B to play the 2nd placed team in C group for the last spot. So a possible Quarter finals that we could see is: Australia v. Wales, New Zealand v. Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea v. England, Tonga v. France.

The number of games we get from this is 18 in the pool stages, 2 Quarter finals qualifiers, 4 for the quarter finals, 2 for the semi finals and 1 final, 27 matches all up. Its easy to see why they have done this, 27 games to show on TV rather than 19.

What about venues? There needs to be a good mixture of Heartland areas with expansion areas to target. Certainly I think any Scotland, Wales and Ireland matches need to be at home. The Quarter and semi finals need to be in heartland areas, with the semis I think at Old Trafford and Hull. The Quarters can be in Huddersfield, Wigan, Warrington and Headingly. The final needs to be at Wembley. This is the heart and home of Rugby League in England.

Emerging Nations World Cup?

The other question that needs to be posed is will there be an emerging nations world cup staged at the same time. This is a concept that has been used to great success in the past in Rugby League and I don’t see why it cant be done so again. Two groups of 4 can be used, thus 12 pool matches. These matches can be used as openers to the Main WC cup to help increase the crowd numbers at venues. Similarly quarter final, semi final and Finals can be openers to the main game as well.

One thing is for sure with this news, Rugby League once again has managed to put up a banana kick that no one knew was coming. Will this be a success or not, only time will tell.

Daniel Andruczyk’s email:
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