Wood: World Cup will help sport grow

Nigel Wood is in Australia for the final
Nigel Wood is in Australia for the final
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Chief Nigel Wood believes the World Cup has underlined the importance of international rugby league.

The tournament reaches a climax this morning when England met Australia in the decider in Brisbane.

Wood, the chief executive of the Rugby Football League, is in Australia in his role as chairman of the International Federation.

And he hopes interest in Super League will have swelled because of the World Cup.

Wood said: “I think it’s been stunning, particularly the emergence of Pacific Islands.

“There are obviously challenges, such as for some of the European nations.

“But the crowds have turned up, the broadcast numbers are great, and the prominence in which the sport has received attention on both sides of the world.

“I’ve got a strong and firm belief that for any sport to grow, it is on the back of international competition.

“We all have our local rivalries whether it’s Hull KR-FC, or Queenland-New South Wales or Leigh Miners against Leigh East.

“But what drives in new eyeballs and new people in is when England play Australia.

“Hopefully they get attracted to it and stick with the sport.”

One issue which emerged during the tournament was the gulf in payments between the nations.

Players for the two finalists, England and Australia, were well-paid while those with other countries received much less.

The Kangaroos reported received $20,000 a game, while semi-finalists Tonga got $500 and Ireland players say they didn’t receive any match payments.

Wood concedes it is an issue but said: “I’m not sure what role the international federation has there.

“In every other sport, the individual national federations decide how they want to remunerate their players.

“It’s not a great communist planned economy where everyone is on the same rate of pay.

“It is a legit discussion because some of the discrepancies are bigger than they ought to be, and I think that’s a significant conversation the international federation needs to have and maybe set a minimum.

“But they are all treated equally, in that the participation agreement for all 14 nations is identical - what is different is the affordablility for nations to top up those payments, and that’s what’s different.

“We are aware of that, but there is a limit of what can be done.”

Profits made from the World Cup will be reinvested into international development, Wood said.

“The World Cup has had an indifferent and spasmodic past, but the 2013 tournament moved us on and 2017 will do the same and 2021 (in England) will be even better,” he added.

“Funds generated are used for the betterment of the sport.

“We need to make sure the world tournaments fund international rugby league.”

The final at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium was kicking-off at 9am, UK time, today.

Report and reaction to follow.