IRELAND coach Mark Aston urged organisers of international rugby league yesterday to introduce a Six Nations tournament as soon as 2018 to enable him to build on his team’s successful World Cup.
The Irish flew home from the World Cup yesterday despite winning two of their three group matches, leaving behind a Samoa team which clinched a quarter-final spot with just a draw to show for their efforts.
It is a situation which prompted Aston to call for a rethink over the format in time for the next World Cup in 2021 but more immediately is urging the expansion of the European Championship to include England and Italy alongside Ireland, Wales, Scotland and France.
“We need an international calendar,” Aston said. “We need to keep this group together.
“The tournament has been absolutely fantastic for us, probably the most enjoyable one to date for us.
“From minute one, the boys have been outstanding and we need to keep it going.
“It comes back to the fixtures, we have to play against England. International rugby league is the pinnacle of the sport and we haven’t got the calendar right.
“Let’s follow rugby union and have a six nations every year and Great Britain should come back,” with that team comprising players from across the British Isles.
The Rugby League International Federation has given the go-ahead for a resumption of the Ashes series, with a Great Britain team set to tour down under in 2019, when a World Nines tournament is also scheduled.
However, no details have been announced and Ireland captain Liam Finn says it is important for teams and players to be given more time to prepare for internationals.
“We need some meaningful fixtures so that we can plan,” Finn said. “You can’t have two or three fixtures thrown at us in July or August and expect the lads to play after 34 games in a Super League season.
“We need some time to plan and to get sponsors behind us.”