World Cup 2025 - Why France?
The Board of International Rugby League (IRL) has awarded the rights to host RLWC2025 to France. Why is this a very positive decision for rugby league world-wide?
When Troy Grant took the Chair of in early 2021 there were some large items on the to-do list. One of which was to secure a host for the world cup in 2025. Previous discussions with North America had faded and left a vacuum but a world cup is one of the single biggest assets available to any sport and the where to hold the event every cycle is a significant decision, Troy picks up the story, “I was really excited by the opportunities presented in France but I needed validation and got that from experienced sources close to rugby league such as Trent Robinson, Wayne Bennett and Michael Chieka.
“We also needed to gauge the potential interest in France. I was able to consult with France’s Consul General, Anne Bouillon and the French Ambassador to Australia, H.E. Jean-Pierre Thébault. With their encouragement, I felt we had something to progress.”
As Mr Grant settled into his position, M Luc Lacoste was just getting to grips with his tenure as President of the Federation Francaise de Rugby a Treize and he was looking to make a statement that would re-ignite a sleeping giant in the world of rugby league. There was a natural alignment and both leaders set about achieving their separately decided but mutually agreed goal of placing the 2025 World Cup in France. It would take an immense amount of work and co-ordination, also a great deal of time, which was in short supply.
To achieve the outcome required multi-layered government support, an imaginative and achievable business plan, support from different stakeholders in many parts of the world and a huge amount of energy. Fast forward to January 2022 and the announcement by French Prime Minister Jean Castex that France will proudly accept the invitation to host RLWC2025 – and now the hard work really begins.
Speaking of the process, IRL Chair Troy Grant said, “First I have to pay tribute to Luc, his organising team led by Michel Wiener and the French government for making this happen. There has been so much hard work behind the scenes ensuring that every question was answered, every worry addressed and making sure that the list of partners behind the project was large, impressive and enthusiastic.”
“The idea to talk to the French about hosting RLWC2025 came about for several really good reasons. France is a G7 country, the sixth largest economy in the world and has a long history with rugby league dating back to 1934. Hosting the world cup there will be a boost for international rugby league, and it will provide a dynamic impetus for the French federation.”
Rugby League kicked off in France in 1934 and very quickly became one of the most popular sports in the country. The national team were noted around the world for their brand of play which gained them many admirers and some success on the field including series wins against the Kangaroos in Australia. In 1954, it was France who came up with the idea of a world cup and they hosted the inaugural event. The men’s trophy today is named after the pioneer Paul Barriere and he, for one, would be delighted to see the return of the competition to France.
French rugby league, whilst on a lower ebb internationally, has continued domestically. They have strong men’s competitions, were right at the forefront of the women’s game, enjoy the fruits of a well-organised and successful youth programme and pioneered the wheelchair game through Robert Fassolette, following that French tradition of leadership. In 2021, the renaissance continued as Toulouse Olympique were promoted to the Super League and Catalans Dragons won the League Leaders Shield and reached the Grand Final of the Super League.
“Why France?” continued Grant, “Why not France? The game has a long and rich heritage and is already culturally embedded in the country. They have the potential, in a very short space of time to challenge at the top of every element of the sport and are already number one in the wheelchair discipline. The opportunity is there for us all in the rugby league community to embrace RLWC2025 in France and to enjoy and celebrate our sport together in a wonderful and vibrant country. I can’t wait!”