Rugby league’s new international eligibility rules could help sell next year’s World Cup in Australia to the USA and the rest of the world.
Under new rules being proposed by the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF), players not selected for the tier-one nations, Australia, New Zealand and England, will be free to play for developing league countries.
It means the likes of Jarryd Hayne and Anthony Milford could each play State of Origin next year, before being selected to play for Fiji and Samoa respectively at the end-of-season World Cup.
“It allows us to market a better product when we’re trying to sell it internationally,” RLIF international development manager Tas Baitieri told AAP.
“We’re going to have a better quality standard of the game which is going to be appealing to the public and also television broadcasters.
Twelve of the 28 matches at the last World Cup, in 2013, were decided by 20 points or more.
“When you have games that are blowout scorelines, it doesn’t endower the game a lot when you’re trying to sell the game to new countries like America,” Baitieri said.
Samoa stand to be the big winners of the decision, with a number of players including Milford, Josh McGuire, Suaia Matagi, Junior Paulo, Marty Taupau and Joseph Leilua set to star for the country if they miss Australian or New Zealand selection.
And while coach Matt Parish was delighted with the news, he warned a change needed to come at NRL level if the rule adjustment would have any affect on an annual basis through the mid-year Tests.
“It’s really disappointing that some clubs don’t support the international game,” he said.
“They support their players when they get picked for Australia and New Zealand but they need to support them when they get picked for Samoa and Tonga.”