Mal calls for Seven Nation army to save league
Australia coach Mal Meninga believes a Seven Nations tournament can salvage international football this season if the coronavirus saga delivers the bullet to a rebirth of the Kangaroo Tour.
Meninga urged the ARL Commission not to forget about the importance of Test football after the NRL's Project Apollo team made no mention of the international game as part of their May 28 relaunch blueprint.
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The NRL's innovation team on Thursday revealed plans for a club and Origin campaign that would include a one-game NRL grand final this season - but Test football remains in limbo.
Meninga was scheduled to lead an Australian team to England for the first Kangaroo tour in 17 years. The Kangaroos were slated to face the old enemy in a three-Test series between October 31 and November 14.
But if the NRL opposes the series, Meninga is keen for Australia to take part in an end-of-season, mini-World Cup Down Under featuring New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
Meninga hopes England could be added as the seventh team if international travel restrictions, triggered by the COVID-19 crisis, are eased by November or December.
"I really hope there is scope in the season for international football. We need to go through some discussions," Meninga said.
"I haven't talked to anyone about the Kangaroo Tour. There is a desire from the other side of the world to do it but it all hinges on when we may start the NRL and what the appetite is from broadcasters if we go into November or December.
"I can't see why we can't play Test footy at the end of the year. Maybe we can the Kangaroo Tour and the England team can fly here to play against us and the Pacific teams in a Seven Nations tournament.
"That way we can play some round robin games over four to six weeks.
"By November, there's a good chance crowds may be allowed to attend games again and hopefully international travel might be allowed for the English team.
"A Seven Nations could get decent crowds and generate some money for the code, especially with the Tongan fans involved."
Meninga stressed the importance of the national team getting regular competition ahead of next year's World Cup in the UK.
"A shortened NRL season can help us play some Test football," he said.
"The NRL is the priority and then we need an Origin series. The poor old international program comes in third unfortunately.
"But we need to have on it on the calendar, there is a World Cup next year so the Australian team needs some sort of international program for me to prepare the team.
"I understand we need to maximise the revenue of the NRL season but I still believe there is time in the season for Test football."
Originally published as Mal calls for Seven Nation army to save league