Future of World Club becomes clearer

Joe Burgess scores a try against Cronulla in the World Club Challenge
Joe Burgess scores a try against Cronulla in the World Club Challenge

The Dacia World Club Series is set to stay in England for 2018, according to Super League executive director Roger Draper.

Organisers are putting the final touches to the next series, pencilling in the weekend of February 24-25 and almost certainly sticking with two representatives each from Super League and Australia’s National Rugby League.

The series, expanded from the annual World Club Challenge in 2015 to include three teams from each competition, was scaled back after consecutive 3-0 whitewashes of the Super League clubs but revitalised in February by victories for Wigan and Warrington over Cronulla and Brisbane respectively.

That gave rise to the prospect of Australia hosting a bigger event in 2018 but Draper, who is also the Rugby Football League’s chief commercial officer, believes the status quo will be maintained in the short term.

“We’ve got the weekend set aside in the calendar and we’ve been discussing with Australia a number of options such as whether we hold it in the UK or Australia or a mixture of both - and there was an offer from Singapore which has now gone off the table - and the number of teams,” Draper told Press Association Sport.

“At the moment we’re heading towards a four-team series in the UK like this year, although we’ve still not closed the door on four teams from each country.

“I think the preference both from ourselves and the NRL was either two or four teams and that is something we can hopefully build towards in the future.”

That is likely to mean disappointment once more for the Challenge Cup winners, with the two Super League spots going to the champions and the winners of the League Leaders’ Shield.

Draper says he hopes to confirm the details in the next few weeks and believes the recent interest from Singapore keeps alive the possibility of a neutral venue in the future.

“The globalisation of sport is happening at a fast pace,” he said. “We do get offers from interesting places, whether that’s in America, the Middle East or Singapore or Dubai because they’re looking at ways of promoting tourism.

“Obviously it was an interesting one because it’s easier for the Aussies to go to Singapore than it is to come over here and the travel time has always been one of the factors.

“We’ll keep looking at those options as we go forward.”

Meanwhile, Super League clubs will meet in June to discuss the domestic programme for 2018 but Draper says any changes will be minimal.

“We’ll be looking at making some refinements and some small-scale improvements for 2018 with a view to having a further discussion for 2019 to 2021,” he said.

“I don’t think there will be big changes for 2018 because there are too many moving parts. If we did make any changes they would be from 2019.

“Things like the League Leaders’ Shield and Super 8s will certainly be up for discussion, along with an international window and the season start but, in rugby league we’re very good at being innovative and embracing change but sometimes I think you have to need consistency and continuity as well.

“So it’s right to review these things but actually this season is proving to be one of the best ever so, if it’s not broken, why try to fix it?”

Clubs will also be asked at their June meeting to sign off a deal to introduce central contracts for leading Super League-based England internationals.

Draper says the RFL will sign up between eight and 12 players as part of its bid to ward off approaches from both the NRL and rugby union for Super League’s elite talent.

“Not only do we want to win the 2017 World Cup, we want to win it in 2021 as well,” he added. “And, if we’ve got the best talent in Super League, we’ll sell more seats, get a better TV deal and get better commercial partners so it’s a virtuous circle.”