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James Graham takes on the Australia defence.

After watching his England side confirm themselves as the world's No.2 Test nation with a series-clinching 20-14 defeat of New Zealand, Wayne Bennett bemoaned the possibility that they may have to wait another two years to play Australia.

However, Bennett and those responsible for the game in Britain can guarantee England not only get a shot at the world champions but can lay claim to their mantle by agreeing to host a Kangaroos tour at the end of next season.  

Australia coach Mal Meninga made it known after last month's historic Test against Tonga in Auckland that he wants to revive Kangaroos tours as soon as next year, with a three-Test series against England and mid-week games against the likes of France, Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

Finalising a five-year international calendar is one of the main items on the agenda of the RLIF Congress meeting in York this week, which will be attended by delegates from 20 countries, including NRL CEO Todd Greenberg and ARLC chairman Peter Beattie.

Match Highlights: England v Kiwis - Second Test

Yet it seems the proposal to play the first Ashes series since 2003 at the end of next season has already been rejected for a British Lions tour of the southern hemisphere that may or may not include a Test against Australia.

Critics of the Lions concept also question which players from Ireland, Scotland and Wales would make the England team, which is expected to be announced by the RLIF as the world's No.2 ranked nation after beating the Kiwis three times since last December's 6-0 World Cup loss to Australia.

France became the ninth country to qualify for the 2021 World Cup after following up last week's 54-18 defeat of Wales with a 24-10 win against Ireland to claim first place in the European Championship. Scotland lost their first game 36-10 to Ireland and were beaten 50-12 by Wales last weekend.

Wales winger Regan Grace has been mentioned as a possible Lions selection but it is hard to see him getting a start ahead of Sunday's three-try hero Tommy Makinson, who has been nominated for the Golden Boot award, or England team-mate Jermaine McGilvary.

None of the NRL heritage players who previously represented Scotland - Lachlan Coote, Kane Linnett and Euan Aitken - would be considered better options than England's Jake Connor, Oliver Gildart or Jonny Lomax, who have impressed against New Zealand. 

Under Bennett, England now has a strong team which also boasts depth after edging out the Kiwis without the likes of Sam Burgess, Gareth Widdop, Sean O'Loughlin, Kallum Watkins and Ryan Hall.

A home Test series against Australia would provide a boost to the game in England - even more so if Bennett's men were to beat the Kangaroos - but that appears unlikely to go ahead next year.       

A meeting of the Asia Pacific Rugby League Confederation in Auckland last month discussed a two-tier "Oceania Cup" at the end of next season, in which Australia, New Zealand and Tonga would play against each other, while Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Samoa would play one another.

Wade Graham in the 2017 World Cup final.
Wade Graham in the 2017 World Cup final. ©NRL Photos

An Oceania Cup would coincide with the Lions tour in which Great Britain will also play the Kiwis, Tonga and other Pacific nations, including PNG – but possibly not Australia.

With an International Nines tournament set to be introduced at the end of next season at the new Western Sydney Stadium, there are concerns about player workload as 2021 World Cup organisers want the Kangaroos to tour Britain in 2020 to build momentum ahead of the tournament.

Australia are also committed to playing New Zealand at the end of each season as well as the Prime Ministers XIII fixture, which may move from Papua New Guinea to Fiji or another Pacific nation next year.

Kangaroos players would then return to the UK in 2021 for a seven-week World Cup campaign, while the Kiwis, Tonga and the winner of the other pool play in the Oceania Cup and Cook Islands join the other two Pacific nations in a parallel tournament.

The alternative would have seen the Kangaroos tour Britain next season, with 2020 to be a light year for all players ahead of the World Cup.

Kangaroo tours would be every eight years, with the British Lions tour of the Southern Hemisphere taking place in 2023.

A home Test series against Australia would provide a boost to the game in England

An international calendar is expected to be agreed upon at the RLIF Congress meeting but it may not be finalised as officials want to obtain costings to ensure each Test is financially viable.

Pay parity between nations is expected to become more common after the success of the October 20 Test between Australia and Tonga, in which Kangaroos players agreed to a 75 per cent reduction in their match fee and Tonga players received the same payment.

Tonga will play the Kiwis in New Zealand on Saturday, June 22 during next year’s stand-alone representative weekend, which will also feature the Pacific Cup.

The fate of the proposed 2025 World Cup in North America is also expected to be discussed at the RLIF Congress meeting, which will be attended by representatives of governing bodies from Germany, Serbia, Ukraine and the Czech Republic as well as more established league nations.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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