The Case Against Tours

By Daniel Andruczyk

One of the debates that has come out of recently is that there aren’t any tours in Rugby League any more. The last Ashes tour was in 2003 when Australia went to the UK. But in hind sight I think this is not a bad thing. In fact not having tours ultimately is the best thing that can happen to Rugby League if it wants to truly expand internationally.

Big 4 tours

In the past tours were performed by only the big four nations: Australia, Great Britain, France and New Zealand. These nations were the ones that had the money to travel and  historically have had rivalries in many other sports, thus made sense for them to play each other. It was convenient with two southern hemisphere and two northern hemisphere teams, so a tour every 2 years allowed two nations to be toured. So Australia would go and play Great Britain and France. In the return tour Great Britain would play Australia and New Zealand. Made sense.

France tried to boost the international game by getting the Italians involved in the 1950’s and 60’s, but with little interest from other nations to go there then the sport quickly collapsed and clubs switched over to Rugby Union. Similarly the USA and South Africa also in the 1950’s had a go at the sport but once again no interest from the established nations saw the sport get no where.

In the last 20-30 years other nations have stepped up to the plate, but not having the money to tour are forced to play one off games and set up their own tournaments. What this creates in reality is the haves and have nots in Rugby League. These days there are only 3 nations that could hold any sort of tour. Australia in recent times when they toured the UK would then have a one off match against the French.

Now, if there still was only 4 nations that play Rugby League, then there would be no problems with having tours, they would be easy to have home and away series once every four years as it used to be. However, with all the nations that play now and say the top 12 nations, if they were all to tour each other then we would end up in a similar situation to cricket where the domestic seasons suffer and national teams will tour all year round.

But the argument has been that Australia New Zealand and England should tour, so while these three nations would tour make money all the other nations would fall by the wayside once again not getting any quality games against the best nations and players. This would further drive the wedge of player defection from the New World Nations to the top three as we have seen now with Akuila Uate’s wanting to swap to Australia. With three or four nations only playing then naturally players want to jump ship.

RLIF Control

If you only have 3 or 4 nations that are touring and hoarding the majority of players then they will insist on having the control in the RLIF, hence we have the situation now. There is a conflict of interest existing within the RLIF because of the fact that only 3 Nations are “allowed” to play the big games. This certainly is a hangover from the day of touring but these days with the Pacific Nations and Home nations starting to gain more and more popularity then members from them need to have a greater say. In the end there needs to be independence in the RLIF, the people at the top cannot also be in positions of power in any other nations governing federations.

One Offs

Some argue that Rugby Union is able to still have tours then why cannot Rugby League do it? I would say that if you look in depth, Union is not really expanding beyond its core of 10 nations. Any team outside of the old guard don’t get a look in outside of the World Cup. This creates a culture of haves and have nots. Only the 10 nations get the major tours and everyone else get the scraps.

Many of the “tours” are one off games against nations as well, and if this is the case then why not just have a tournament where there are incentives, like trophies and qualification into the World Cup? This is exactly what I propose for Rugby League. Rather than get bogged down in expensive tours, lets have tournaments. Teams rather than having to go to 2 or 3 countries all go to one place and play against several of the best nations, and every one can reap the monetary benefits of the tournament.


Soccer I think has the best overall structure for an international game. There all teams have the opportunity to play and participate, from the qualifiers  though to the finals, in regional, cross continental and international tournaments. Examples are the European Cup, Asian Cup, The Confederations Cup and World Cup. The sport still spreads its feelers to new countries, where they get opportunities to play against better countries. This also shows players from those countries that they have the opportunity to represent their country in meaningful games, that they don’t have to go to one of New Zealand, Australia or England to get a “meaningful game”.

Plus wouldn’t it be great if a team can come out and say that we are the regional champions, the inter continental champions and world champions in a 4 year period? Certainly would give fans and players more ammunition to talk about around the cooler on a Monday morning!


At the moment, the International game is completely dependent on the money produced from one tournaments, the World Cup. The 2008 World Cup made a supposed $5 million profit and its meant to be a “War chest” for the next 5 years, till the next World Cup. Now Does anyone else see the problem with that?

That kind of money will not buy you much. The Pacific Cup in 2009 cost over $1 million alone. Supposedly countries are meant to get some of that money as well, but so far we have had no word of which countries will get it. Would it not makes sense that the RLIF and any individual regional Federation, such as the RLEF, would work to make profits for each tournaments, work to get the sponsors. This would mean a campaign that is not just one month or one year in the making, but many years in the making. Is it not better to have $5 million a year to spend on team than $5 million over 4/5 years?

But what would bring in that money, where is that money? Well the greatest assets that we have are the top 3 teams. Australia, England and New Zealand should be competing in the regional tournaments like the Pacific Cup and European Cup. On top of that make those tournaments be worth something, have them be a stepping stone to World Cup qualifications. This does 3 things:

  1. It gives the smaller nations the opportunity that many of their players want, a chance to play against the best players, It gives their players and teams more opportunities to observe and learn how the top teams do things, not just one every four years, but almost every year.
  2. Gives all nations in those regions incentive to participate in the tournaments as each games takes on the importance that it is a world cup qualifier effectively.
  3. The players swaps that are plaguing Rugby League would stop, since the players now would have the incentive to stick with their original, native teams, where they don’t have to give up their nations just to look at playing for Australia or State of Origin to get a good game… they get the chance to play the best on a consistent basis now.

Once again for this to happen will mean that a consistent, relevant set of International tournaments will need to be established. This would not work with tours. If you have only tours, particularly with only 3-4 nations then all the money stays within those countries. The International Federations and International game would not benefit. Games are kept only within those countries, money that Say England or Australia make in those tours would stay only in those countries, I mean why would Australia and England give money from their games and tours to say Serbia or Russia or the USA? Also if all the major games get centralised around only a few nations, then any players from other smaller nations will always jump ship to try and get into those countries to earn more of a crust.


One thing is for sure, if rugby league wants to move forward around the world it needs to be more inclusive of all nations that play it, give them all a chance to play the best. The only way that will happen is with tournaments and not tours.

Daniel Andruczyk’s email:
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