In a bid to boost interest in English rugby, former England captain Courtney Lawes has suggested that Rugby Union looks to their rival code Rugby League for inspiration.
Suggesting a north versus south contest among Premiership sides, Lawes drew inspiration from Australian Rugby League’s iconic State of Origin clash between Queensland and New South Wales.
Lawes envisions this concept as a catalyst for heightened excitement, mirroring the intensity seen in the 13-a-side code’s annual showdown. The physicality and fierce rivalry between Queensland and New South Wales have contributed to the event’s success, making it a model worth emulating in union.
The proposal hinges on birthplace rather than current team affiliation, aiming to capture the essence of regional pride. Lawes suggests that star players like Owen Farrell would represent their respective regions, offering fans a thrilling spectacle and fostering a sense of tribalism that could elevate the sport’s popularity.
In Lawes’ vision, a north versus south Premiership clash would transcend mere competition; it would become a celebration of entire regions rallying behind their teams. Discussing the concept on The Good, The Bad and The Rugby podcast, Lawes emphasized the potential for widespread engagement, stating, “Can you imagine the northerners if they said they were going to be playing the southerners? Everyone’s going to get involved in that kind of stuff.”
However, challenges loom regarding player allocation, particularly for those situated in the Midlands. Despite these logistical hurdles, Lawes believes that exploring this innovative approach is essential for the sport’s growth and fan engagement.
This proposal arrives at a critical juncture for English rugby, grappling with financial issues that have led to the administration of three Premiership clubs—Wasps, Worcester Warriors, and London Irish. Lawes’ suggestion not only offers a strategic solution for generating further interest in the sport but also taps into the deep-seated regional loyalties that could be the key to a resurgence in England’s rugby scene. The prospect of a north versus south spectacle adds an intriguing layer to the ever-evolving story that is English professional rugby.