Rugby World Cup for France after 50 years


France to host Rugby League World Cup 2025 Image: Six Nations Rugby

It is official, the French Rugby League will host the 2025 Rugby League World Cup (including both men and women). They have hosted the Rugby League World Cup in 1954, 1972, 2000, and 2013. However, the last time France hosted a Rugby League World Cup as the lone host was in 1972.

The 2025 Rugby League World Cup will be the 17th staging of the Rugby League World Cup and will be held in France in October and November 2025. The tournament will include the men’s, women’s, wheelchair, and youth competitions. There will be 16 teams playing in the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions.

The Rugby League World Cup is an international rugby league tournament contested by the top men’s national teams. The tournament is administered by the International Rugby League and was first held in France in 1954, which was the first World Cup held for any form of rugby football.

The ‘LWOS’ stated that Ralph Rimmer, the Chief Executive of the Rugby Football League (RFL), has also been a member of the International Rugby League Sub-Committee. This is what he said about the France bid according to the Rugby Football League:

“With Rugby League in France enjoying a golden year in 2021, their Wheelchair team ranked number one in the world, and Toulouse Olympique (professional rugby league club in Toulouse, South-West France) joining the Catalans Dragons (professional rugby league club from Perpignan, Pyrénées-Orientales Department, France) in the forthcoming Betfred Super League (top-level of the British rugby league system) season, this is another major boost to Rugby League in Europe and the Northern Hemisphere.”

The Rugby Football League is the national governing body for professional rugby league in England. The name Rugby Football League previously also referred to the main league competition run by the organization. This has since been supplanted by Super League, the Championship and League 1.

The ‘LWOS’ further stated that as the sole host, France hosted the Rugby World Cup twice, this was in 1954 and 1972. Yes, there is a rugby league stronghold in the French region of Occitanie. However, 2025 will mark a possible beginning to grow the game outside of the traditional rugby league powerhouses. This year will also be the first time ever that there will be two French Betfred Super League teams. This is a remarkable achievement considering 25 years ago, the Paris St-Germain Rugby League, France’s first-ever Super League team, folded.

Additionally, a World Cup of this magnitude could mean more French Cities getting rugby league teams in the RFL system. There is a plan to try to get a Super League TV deal in France. With both Toulouse and USA Perpignan (French rugby union club) in Super League, it could prove a pivotal way to grow the game of rugby league in France.

The 2025 Rugby League World Cup in France is just one step in the right direction. It is also part of a wider effort to grow the game of rugby league. The plan now should be to get a World Cup in North America, specifically Canada and the United States.

For this to happen, the most important thing is for the North American Rugby League (NARL) and the Canada Co-Operative Championship Rugby League (CCCRL) to survive and thrive from now to 2029. Both leagues are set to play their inaugural season. However, it is to be noted that the CCCRL will play all their home games in Toronto (Canada) this year. Next year, they will start their season in six different Canadian Cities in five different provinces. The success of those two leagues is by far the most important for North America to get the 2029 Rugby League World Cup.

Also, getting a TV contract is also important. This might be easier to get done in Canada than in the US. One reason is that the Toronto Wolfpack (Canadian professional rugby league club) is back and has huge fan support. Also, even with the Ottawa Aces XIII (Canada’s second pro rugby league team) permanently moving to England, it has created core support of rugby league supporters in Ottawa (Canada).

There have also been other initiatives. One is that the current Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) President Troy Grant wants the Rugby League World Cup to be in Australia in 2032.

Remarked Grant, “The pinnacle would be to get nines into the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games.”

Rugby League (nines) is another version of the 13 players on each team. The CCCRL plans to have a pro men’s and women’s league playing in rugby league nines starting this year. There is certainly a possibility of Australia having rugby league in the Olympics. However, it is unlikely to be a permanent fixture in the Olympics. There is no harm in trying though. The Commonwealth Games though could work and become a permanent fixture in the games.

The last point being made is that getting a 2025 Rugby League World Cup in France bodes well for a possible 2029 Rugby League World Cup in North America. It might also coincide with a 2029 Rugby World Cup (women’s rugby union) if the US bid, which includes Vancouver (Canada), is successful in May of this year.

There will also be a youth and wheelchair rugby league played in the Rugby League World Cup and it will be played across 40 Cities in France. The coach of the French Rugby League team right now is Laurent Frayssinous.

The ‘NRL’ stated that a press statement from Grant’s office stated, “This international event, which has not been organized in France for more than 50 years, will help promote the influence of French sport and is intended to integrate the entire territory, by being organized in around 40 towns.”

France hosted the 1972 World Cup final between Australia and England, who retained the Paul Barrière Trophy after the match ended in a controversial 10-10 draw following the disallowing of a try to Kangaroos (Australia men’s national rugby league team) full-back Graeme Langlands.

The ‘NRL’ further stated that Barrière was a driving force behind the establishment of the Rugby League World Cup in 1954 after more than two decades of lobbying by French officials.

The 2025 tournament will be 17th edition of the World Cup and it is expected that the number of teams and matches will exceed those at the postponed RLWC2021 in England at the end of the upcoming season.

In addition to adding a Youth World Cup, France’s proposal included the doubling of women’s and wheelchair teams from eight each at this year’s tournament to 16 each in 2025 – bringing them on par with the men’s competition.

The World Cup bid had the support of seven-time NRL premiership winning coach Wayne Bennett and Sydney Roosters (Australian professional rugby league football club) mentor Trent Robinson, who is the FFRXIII Director of Coaching.

Bennett went with Grant to a meeting with the French Consul-General Anne Boillon to propose the World Cup being in France 12 months after the 2024 Paris Olympics and two years after the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Grant believed that staging the World Cup in France would boost the game both domestically and internationally after initial plans for the tournament to be held in North America were scrapped.

After hitting rock bottom in 2019 when the Junior Kangaroos thrashed the French Test team 62-4 in Wollongong (Australia), the game in France is undergoing a revival with Catalans Dragons and Toulouse Olympique in this year’s Super League.

The Dragons were minor premiers and reached their first Super League Grand Final last season but lost 14-12 to St Helens R.F.C. (UK), while Toulouse earned promotion to the top flight after being unbeaten in the Championship.

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