Jason Taumalolo and Tonga during the World Cup.

The RLIF will step up work on an international calendar which may include a new Pacific Cup competition, following the appointment of Englishman Nigel Wood as chief executive.

Wood, who last week announced his resignation as RFL chief executive, will focus full time on the international game after moving from chairman of the International Federation to the CEO role vacated by David Collier.  

Joey Leilua in action for Samoa during the World Cup.
Joey Leilua in action for Samoa during the World Cup. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

Unlike Collier, whose previous role was as CEO of the England and Wales Cricket Board, Wood has an extensive background in rugby league which will enable him to hit the ground running.

With John Grant set to continue as an NRL representative on the RLIF board after he officially stands down as ARLC chairman at the February 21 AGM, the international body will have a key official in each hemisphere whose sole role will be on developing the game globally.

Among their first and most important tasks will be determining how the game can capitalise on the success of the recent World Cup and, in particular, the emergence of the Pacific nations.

The likes of Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita are keen to continue playing for Tonga but only if the Mate Ma'a have regular matches. It is acknowledged that the game needs a four-year international calendar, while an end-of-season Pacific Cup competition has been proposed.

However, the expansion of the international game can only be achieved by the RLIF working with the NRL and Super League, as well as the RLPA, and the appointment of Wood should assist that process.

Grant said the RLIF board, which includes NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg, had been prepared to consider candidates from outside the game but believed they were unlikely to find a better qualified person for the CEO's job.

"Nigel is a 10-year CEO with a proven track record as a rugby league administrator of the highest standard, is respected on both sides of the world, has an intimate understanding of the complex relationship between domestic and international rugby league, and provides a fast start in the role at a time when capitalising on the momentum created by the 2017 World Cups is critical," Grant said.

''The RLIF board determined that the board’s nominations committee from Australia, New Zealand and Europe should in the first instance undertake a rigorous process with Nigel as its internal candidate to confirm his willingness and suitability to take the role. Failing this, it was then to undertake an external process. 

Kevin Naiqama playing for Fiji.
Kevin Naiqama playing for Fiji. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

"The committee was swayed not only by Nigel’s clear experience but also by his deep knowledge and sincere passion for international rugby league.  Its recommendation that he was the right person to take the international game forward at the very exciting but challenging time was adopted unanimously by the full board”

NZRL director John Bishop, who is a member of the RLIF nominations committee, said: ''I have worked with Nigel for two World Cup cycles now and numerous international tournaments and have seen first-hand his endeavours for the international game. The next few years are vital for international rugby league and the board believe Nigel is undoubtedly the right person to bring focus and energy to our plans.''

Wood said he was honoured to have been asked to serve the RLIF as CEO for the next phase of the international game's development.

"International rugby league is a wonderful and essential aspect of our sport as the images, testimonials and emotions of the recent World Cups have once again demonstrated," he said.

"I believe these are exciting times as more and more people recognise the role of international rugby league has in developing the whole sport.

"New countries and investors are attracted to our sport and I look forward to working with all parties, clubs and other key stakeholders to ensure that we give players, supporters and commercial and broadcast partners the most compelling international calendar that we possibly can.''