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Six-again going global? IRL to consider new rule for all league

The International Rugby League is set to consider adopting the six-again rule for Tests and competitions across the world after its successful introduction to the NRL last week.

A meeting of the IRL board on Wednesday night is expected to discuss the six-again call and deputy chairman Troy Grant confirmed he would advocate for it being included in the rules of the game.

While there have been previous rules in the NRL which were not in force in other competitions - including the Super League, or at international level - Grant said he believed the game should be the same around the world. 

"There is a strong desire to align the two professional leagues' rules with the international rules so the six-again rule will certainly be put forward and considered by the IRL, Super League and the NRL to try and sync the rules the best we can," Grant said.

The former NSW deputy premier was a member of the Project Apollo committee - chaired by ARL commissioner Wayne Pearce - which proposed the six-again rule to counter fears the return of one referee could lead to greater slowing down of the ruck by defensive teams.

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Pearce is on the IRL board and he will also be keen to see it introduced across the game.

"There is an ongoing process with the IRL being the keepers of the rules," Grant said.

"While the two professional leagues are the dominant leagues, the rules are applied across the world in 60-odd countries so there is a proper due process that has to be followed to adopt them as part of the overall rules of the game.

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"Any lessons learned out of any league about opportunities like that should be considered and will be considered for potential adoption.

"It is certainly a great thing for the game, I think, for us to consider because what we have is an attractive proposition domestically and the more exciting and entertaining the game is the better expansion and growth of the game we have internationally so it makes sense to consider it."

The IRL board have been meeting weekly for the past seven weeks to look at the challenges and opportunities created by COVID-19.

Grant was invited to address the ARL Commission on Wednesday about ways to advance the game internationally, and the IRL and NRL are now working more closely together.

With the proposed Kangaroo tour now cancelled, it remains unclear whether any international matches can be played at the end of the year but Grant said the return of the NRL last weekend had generated massive exposure for the code in North America and Europe.

"International travel is obviously the biggest thing that impacts us in having fixtures but there are greater opportunities that have been created because of the work of Peter V’landys and Junior [Pearce] in particular, and Graham Annesley and Nick Weeks and the team at the NRL," he said.

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"We are looking to take advantage of that we are working hard on a calendar and commercialisation and exposure and opportunities for the game."

The IRL is working with NRL and Super League officials to align the two competitions and create an international window, while the ARL’s recent broadcast deal with Nine and Foxtel only includes bilateral Tests involving Australia and another nation.

Any other international events, such as the World Cup, Oceania Cup or World Cup Nines are the property of the IRL.

"At the moment the ball is in our court to produce a calendar of good content where we have the opportunity for the rights to be sold and broadcast deals to be done on that front," Grant said.

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"We need to really grow the game, we are in a good forward trajectory with Tonga’s rise and the World Cup in 2021 is the new launch pad, I guess, for the international game.

"In that time until then the task is to build something really exciting for the international game from 2022 onwards."

Meanwhile, Grant said he was hopeful the political upheaval in Tonga could be overcome after the new Tonga Ma’a Tonga Rugby League applied for membership of the IRL.

The Tongan National Rugby League was expelled earlier this year but officials are challenging the decision.

"They are exercising their rights to appeal and if that goes forward we will deal with that but we just want the Tongan nation to unite because it was a Tonga Invitational team, not the administrative body, that beat Australia last year," Grant said.

"It’s not about them, it’s about rugby league and what the success of the Tongan players can bring to the country so let’s put aside our egos and agendas and let’s unite to enable Tongan rugby league to continue to advance. It is the interests of Tonga and it is in the interests of rugby league as a whole."