Rugby Australia targets NRL players for 2027 World Cup

Rugby Australia has announced it will step up a raid on NRL players after securing a 2027 World Cup on home soil, but league bosses say they are indifferent to the threat of a code war.

RA chairman Hamish McLennan told the Sun-Herald newspaper that CEO Andy Marinos and Wallabies coach Dave Rennie have already had discussions about targeting “a few good players in the league who have grown up with the rugby”.

“These players love the game and they know that a Rugby World Cup experience in Australia cannot be replicated by the league.”

If McLennan’s statement was a jab through the arcs of rugby league, NRL CEO Andrew Abdo seemed dismissive.

Hamish McLennan. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

“We focus on rugby league; we don’t worry too much about what’s going on within us and around us from the point of view of other sports,” Abdo told the Sun-Herald.

“People have the right to say what they want and to practice their profession as they see fit.

“We have seen incredible talent unearthed in our competition year after year. We see great players retiring and then you see rookie players move on and become fan favourites.

“We are extremely focused on making sure our competition is the best in the world.”

Abdo said the league has compelling advantages over the union.

“It’s a wonderful game to play, a wonderful game to watch. We have tribalism and passion, a wonderful base of support, we have clubs that have unprecedented investments in centers of excellence and new stadiums,” Abdo said.

“When a professional athlete makes a choice about where to play, there are a number of considerations to take into account. We are certainly confident that we have the systems in place to attract and develop talent. We will continue to do so.

“Coming out of the pandemic, we are going to see the international game revitalized. We have a World Cup this year in the UK, we have a doubleheader in the Pacific in June and we are working on an international schedule in October and November on an annual basis.

“If you are a rugby league player you have a lot to look forward to. It’s a pretty compelling proposition.

Rugby Australia has been hunted for several years and many of its top stars have been poached overseas. They seem to be hoping that an injection of funding from the successful 2027 World Cup bid will help them stem the tide and then push into NRL territory.

McLennan was not ready to discuss potential targets.

Former Wallabies captain George Gregan says RA should be careful with their picks.

“Before I had a checkbook, I would have an attitude book,” Gregan told the Sun-Herald.

“If their attitude is to compete on an international stage, to contribute to the Wallaby team and they want to play rugby and try to reach the heights that it allows you to reach, then that’s great. The rest takes care of himself.

“That was definitely the case with the players I’ve been lucky enough to play with in my career who came from rugby league. They had an attitude that was they wanted to be world champions and do their best in our game. They brought that attitude and work ethic to the team, which I think is really important.

Gregan discussed the signings of Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri and Mat Rogers from the league. They were also great rugby union stars.

“They’ve earned their place and cut their teeth playing Super Rugby, touring,” Gregan said. “They were quality players. The skills required to play the two games, there is a certain difference, but there are also things that are correlated. They all had great game temperament. They never were intimidated.

Gregan said RA could offer something that NRL could not.

“Rugby separates itself from these two codes [NRL and AFL] with a Rugby World Cup,” he said.

“It’s a global, international event that attracts the best players in the world and attracts incredible support from around the world. You’ll be playing in front of sold-out arenas over a seven-week period, which is quite unique. , as great as they are, just can’t offer that.”

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