Ashes Series could be scrapped if State of Origin postponed

The Rugby Football League has responded to fears that the eagerly-awaited Ashes Series could be scrapped.

The Australian Rugby League Commission is looking at re-scheduling its representative programme in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and cancelling the Kangaroos tour to England is thought to be one of the options.

The National Rugby League is set to continue this weekend, behind closed doors, but may be further disrupted if the coronavirus scare escalates and the ARL will consider switching the State of Origin series from mid-season to later in the year or even after October’s Grand Final when it holds a crucial meeting on Thursday.

If that happens, the first Ashes Series for 17 years may be sacrificed and that possibility has been brought to the attention of the RFL.

An RFL statement said: “Our sport, like all sports, is facing unprecedented challenges, and we recognise that applies in the southern hemisphere as it does here.

“At the moment our contingency planning for the remainder of this season involves looking at all options but there is still more planning to be done with nothing confirmed and nothing ruled out either.

“We are in constant dialogue with all our partners including Super League, the Championship and League 1 clubs, and today at a meeting of the Community Board, in addition to the International Rugby League and the ARLC to explore all options.

“The key for the game, internationally as well as nationally, is to be collegiate, creative and flexible.”

All rugby league in England has been suspended until April 3 at the earliest and if the Super League season is extended beyond the October 10 Grand Final, it will encroach into the international window.

New England head coach Shaun Wane may not be leading his side against Australia this year
New England head coach Shaun Wane may not be leading his side against Australia this year (Anthony Devlin/PA)

The three Tests between England and Australia are scheduled to take place at Bolton,  Leeds and Tottenham from October 31 to November 14.

The Kangaroos are due to make their first visit to the UK since 2016’s Four Nations series to play the first Ashes Series since 2003.

The teams have not met since the 2017 World Cup final in Brisbane, where England lost 6-0, after Australia declined to be part of the revamped Great Britain tour in 2019.

Instead the Lions instead played New Zealand, a Tonga Invitational XIII and Papua New Guinea.

If it goes ahead, it will be the 40th Rugby League Ashes Series since the term was first used in 1908, 50 years since the Ashes were last won by an England or Great Britain side in 1970.

The Kangaroos are also being lined up to play a warm-up match against Super League newcomers Toronto Wolfpack at the Ontario capital’s 30,000 capacity BMO Stadium on October 24.

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