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Rugby league international played 'in front of a handful of people'

By Ian Cameron
England's Harry Smith kicks at goal during the Mid-Season Internationals Rugby League match between England and France at The Halliwell Jones Stadium on April 29, 2023 in Warrington, England. (Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images)

English rugby league fans’ noses have been left firmly out of joint with their governing body over this weekend after a ‘handful of people’ watched a new-look England side thrash France in Toulouse.


The match at the Stade Ernest Wallon, which saw England thump France 40-8, was met with a feeble attendance and a lack of broadcast exposure, much to the frustration of rugby league fans.

The game was part of a doubleheader with the women’s team, yet it drew only a crowd in the low thousands. In fact, the match was technically a curtain raiser a second-flight rugby league match between Toulouse and Featherstone in the RFL Championship.

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Rassie talks about his interaction with Simon Zebo

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Rassie talks about his interaction with Simon Zebo

Social media was filled with criticism from rugby league fans who felt embarrassed by the poor showing: “Playing an international in front of a handful of people should make the RFL realize just how much of a disgrace they really are” and “International sport should be the pinnacle of rugby league. This isn’t it.”

Another fan lamented: “I was at St James Park for the World Cup opener and I’m bloody frustrated that we haven’t seized that opportunity. I know I’m not the only one.” Another echoed the sentiment, stating, “Amateur standard throughout, how on earth was this an international match? If this was rugby union, it would have been on TV with proper commentators and a huge crowd. This is another backward step and an embarrassment to our great game. Hang your head in shame.”

The match is symptomatic of wider issues plaguing international rugby league, which has been eclipsed by the club game in Australia and Super League in the UK and France.

Despite France being England’s closest competition in Europe, they have not won this fixture for 40 years. While the gap has narrowed in terms of the scoreline on last year’s corresponding fixture (England won that one 64-0), the lack of competition among northern hemisphere international rugby league sides doesn’t appear to be a problem with an obvious solution.


Writing in Love Rugby League, rugby league writer Aaron Bower argued: “When mid-season Test matches are curtain-raisers to second-tier domestic matches, you are only ever going to get one outcome.”

Bower espouses a league version of rugby union’s Six Nations, although he accepts the gap between England and everyone else in the 13-man code is a vast one.

“Yes, I can hear you screaming that an annual Five Nations involving England, France, Scotland, Wales and Ireland… would produce one thing: blowout scorelines, and England wins,” wrote Bower. “But again: you have to start somewhere. If nothing changes, nothing changes.

“The perfect illustration of that is Italy in rugby union’s Six Nations. They were routinely annihilated when they were added to the Five Nations in 2000 but seven years later, they’d finished fourth. This year, they won as many games as Scotland.”




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Mitch 11 days ago

Oh no, maybe the self proclaimed ‘greatest game of all’ isn’t that great outside of Australia.

Lewis 12 days ago

I have absolutely 0 interest in League and that sentiment is strong with many Scottish fans.

Patrick 12 days ago

I thought this was a rugby union site. Some of us have no interest in French rugby league.

Jon 12 days ago

I’m a bit lost at these league fans, what exactly are they complaining about?

Was the ground not big enough to hold all their supporters? Were tickets not available on pre-order for them to plan their weekend away? Did they just not know the this game was scheduled?

I can’t see anything wrong with what took place. If the facilities are not up to their standard they can simply snub their nose at the French. Otherwise, get stuck in on were the French game is at and get absorbed into the amateur form of the game. It’s the best level to be involved in.

Chris 12 days ago

Hopefully that sport will die out in Europe. It’s a scourge on rugby. Like a cheap knock off product with none of the rugby values we hold dear. A game for jocks and meatheads.

MattJH 12 days ago

“Look at Italy in the 6 Nations…”
Dude, that is not an example you want to use…

J Marc 12 days ago

Everybody in Toulouse was on the “Place du capitole” celebrating Stade Toulousain 23th “ bouclier de Brennus “.

Freddie 12 days ago

Ha ha, 🤞 this means we can just call Rugby union, Rugby in a few decades.

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