Five things to be excited about come the Rugby League World Cup: Part II – French Revolution

French Rugby League Team
Photo credit: Getty Images/Cover Art

The North of England in October is usually known for a few things; the Premier League, grey skies and rain. This year, however, there will be one more thing, the 2021, or should I say the 2022-ish, Rugby League World Cup.

International football will soar to new heights after having the brakes so unceremoniously pumped, thanks to COVID. This year’s competition will feature 20 nations, 61 games and 3 formats of the game over a myriad of stadiums across the country’s North and looks to be the strongest World Cup yet. The mid-season Pacific Tests offered a tantalizing preview of what we can expect from some Tier 2 nations and the insanely stacked NZ Team. With the tournament’s commencement imminent and squads slowly being announced and whittled down to their final 24, here are five things that tickle my fancy in particular (and should probably tickle yours).

In this five-part series, I summarise the five most exciting things about this iteration of the rugby league world cup. You can read part one here.

French Revolution

Speaking of 2025, the French have been announced as hosts of the next world cup and even though this may be surprising before the Nazis outlawed rugby league in France during the Second World War (it’s true) the French produced some excellent rugby league talented with the standout being Puig Aubert, a fullback who captained France and played for clubs across the country, including the famed Catalans (my favourite Puig accolade is that he is rumoured to have played with a cigarette in one hand still been the best player on the field).

Move forward a hundred years, and the fact that France hasn’t had another player challenge Albert for the throne is pretty telling. Although it’s taken time, the French rugby league is again on the right track.

Leading the French is one of the top coaches in the NRL – Trent Robinson, who takes his role as Head of Football very seriously (marrying a French girl will do that to you), and he states that having two French teams; the ever-present Catalans Dragons and the new kid on the block Toulouse Olympic in the top flight English competition are going to make his squad very competitive.

Robinson believes that having a top 17 playing in professional systems will improve the decision-making of the most crucial french players for this world cup and the future, which he says is key to keeping French rugby league alive. The tri-colours (I’m sensing a theme here, Trent) are captained by Ben Garcia, who doubles as skipper for Catalans. However, there are injury clouds over Garcia’s Catalan teammate and emerging half Arthur Mourge as well as Salford and France’s utility back Morgan Escare, who picked up an ankle and thumb injury, respectively, in France’s June win over Wales. Injuries to crucial positions could open up paths for other Frenchmen to take this tournament by the scruff of the neck and cause some chaos in the “pool of doom” Group A.

Robbo’s takes on footy rarely make him look foolish, and I’m hoping this is the case here, where France looks competitive, their best players continue to play in one of the best comps of the word, and they roll into 2025 as sturdy as a three-day-old baguette. This revolution may not be televised entirely, but for a few weeks, at least in October and November, it will be at the forefront of the rugby league world… Let’s hope that fewer heads are separated from their shoulders.

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