AAP Rugby

RL boss eyes nines in USA, Middle East

By AAP Newswire

International rugby league boss Nigel Wood will consider taking nines to America and the Middle East as he eyes more tournaments in the format.

The weekend's World Cup Nines was the first global event in the shorter format in 22 years, dating back to the Super League war.

While crowds of only 12,528 and 15,684 turned up on the two days to see Australia claim the men's title and New Zealand the women's, the tournament was largely considered a success given the high standard of football.

At this stage the World Cup is scheduled to return to Sydney in 2023 as part of a deal with the NSW government, but Wood cannot see any reason why there can't be more tournaments before that.

And with that in mind, he sees the format opening the door to the USA, Europe and lucrative middle east.

"North America is possibility, the Middle East is a possibility and definitely Europe," Wood said.

"Nines is a very important opportunity because it can take the sport into countries that aren't necessarily familiar with the 13-a-side game, and complexities of the 13-a-side game and 80-minute windows of contests.

"It's not necessarily the easiest way to start the journey of rugby league for a new country, whereas nines gives you the opportunity to do that."

If the format of the sport is taken on the road, Wood suggested it might not always involve front-line NRL and Super League players but rather emerging teams.

"This is a very valuable new property ... I think nines is a very important aspect of the sport.

"This is the first of the two-cycle World Cup, we've got the agreement to stage it in 2023.

"I think it's capable of more than that, We've seen its popular, it can present the game in a very different way.

"There may be different ways to deliver competitions. It might not always involve elite players but it's a concept that cannot be neglected. It's too important to us."

Meanwhile, the format got the tick of approval from Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga, who is a firm believer it can be used to grow the game globally.

"It can only get better," Meninga said.

"We had to have small steps and I think the start of it all, and the players, we considered a bit of pioneering for the nines. I thought it worked really well.

"I honestly believe it's a showpiece for expressing ourselves of rugby league around the world."