The last time there was a team that went under the mantra of "Great Britain" was in 2007 when the Lions defeated New Zealand in a three-match tour, 3-0. And, the last time a Great Britain side played in a World Cup was 1992. Since then, the individual home nation teams of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland have instead stepped onto the international scene with little success. People may not agree, but England is no closer to beating Australia than they were 20 years ago - in fact, it is actually 22 years since England last beat the Kangaroos - in the group stages of the 1995 World Cup.

This year's World Cup demonstrates the gulf in class between Wales, Scotland and to a much lesser extent, Ireland, and the rest of the competitors - including England. Wales and Scotland have been on the receiving end of blow-out scores, whilst both nations, as well as Ireland, are filled with an embarrassing lack of actual nationals in their squad. Is it time to end the home nations' experiment and bring back Great Britain?

End of Great Britain

There is little doubt that the decision to divide Great Britain back into the four home nations in the mid-2000s was a decision aimed at trying to replicate the excitement and attendances seen in the Rugby Union when the home nations play. The prestigious Six Nations, for example, see England sell-out Twickenham's 82,000 capacity, Wales fill the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Scotland pack out Edinburgh's Murrayfield and the Irish squeeze into the Aviva Stadium.

Unfortunately, these types of crowds for the rugby league equivalent are simply not going to happen.

In the 2015 Rugby League European Cup, Wales hosted Scotland in October at the Racehorse Ground in Wrexham in front of a crowd of 1,253. Just four months later, Wales hosted Scotland in the Rugby Union Six Nations; the crowd was a massive 74,160.

To try and compete with the other code was sheer madness from Rugby League's governing body (the RFL) and the national game has suffered ever since.


The thrills and spills of the Great Britain Lions tour was a pivotal part of Rugby League's international game. International rugby league is a joke at the minute - Fiji's 72-6 annihilation of Wales and New Zealand's 74-6 thrashing of Scotland is evidence of this - and bringing back Great Britain and possibly the Ashes tours which generated so much publicity will bring back an excitement and enthusiasm amongst supporters that have been missing for a long time.

The return of GB would also quite possibly see a team full of British players rather than a team with a few token selections. Despite the criticism it often gets, Super League is a scintillating and competitive competition with quality homegrown players bursting onto the scene each year. And no disrespect to Chris Heighington, for example, but he shouldn't be playing for England, nor should players such as Jack Reed and Rangi Chase have done so in the past.

Going back to Great Britain would stop this ridiculous trend of checking the family tree of Australian or New Zealand born players to see whether their grandma once travelled to these shores 50 years ago. Instead, it would allow the quality that Super League churns out with the likes of Kallum Watkins and Luke Gale to firmly dominate the national setup.

Now, it is not possible to bring back the Rugby League tours of because both the Super League and NRL seasons overlap with each other, but surely a three-match Test series and possibly a game against the champions can work and should at least be attempted.

Home nations not good enough

To put it bluntly, the home nations - with the exception of England (and even this is being questioned at the minute) - are very poor. Wales and Scotland have been absolutely shocking in their opening two World Cup games, conceding 122 and 124 points respectively whilst the Welsh have scored just 12 points and the Bravehearts 10.

Both Wales and Scotland have squads that are full of Championship and League One players and, against the cream of Super League and the NRL, they are being simply blown apart in embarrassing fashion.

Everyone watching the World Cup wants to see competitive, close games that have viewers on the edge of their seats. Wales and Scotland, instead, have had viewers slumping back in their chairs, bored to death whilst watching their opponents score a point nearly every minute.


Now, Ireland is an entirely different proposition. A great 36-12 victory over Italy in their opening match and a very tense 14-6 defeat to PNG at the weekend has somewhat defied the claim of a need to return to GB. Yet, take the Irish team for example. Not one player was born and raised in the country itself and having players with accents as diverse as the Cockney Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook to the broad Yorkshire of Michael McIlorum makes a mockery of a so-called 'Irish' team.

Players may well have links to their respective nations through parents and grandparents, but, and it may be controversial to say, those that turn out for Scotland, Wales, and Ireland do so because they are not good enough to get in the England setup. McIlorum, for example, played for Ireland in the 2008 World Cup. Then, at the height of his career, he swapped allegiances to England and turned out for the England team in the 2013 World Cup. After being ignored ever since that tournament by former England boss Steve McNamara and current boss Wayne Bennett, McIlorum once more declared himself available for Ireland. If he had not done so, it is obvious he would not currently be playing in the World Cup.

Scotland, again, has no true Scottish representatives, in fact, Kane and Andrew Bentley played for France in the 2013 World Cup. The Bravehearts had been captained by Dewsbury-born Danny Brough, but he, along with Jonny Walker and Sam Brooks have been sent home for drunken behaviour at this year's tournament. These three players have shown a complete lack of respect for the Scottish jersey; and there are no prizes for guessing why: because they are not Scottish!

Just look at how Fijian Kevin Naiqama cried as his country's national anthem was being played at the weekend; he is proud to be Fijian.

Just look at how PNG's players are adored by their fans; they are proud to be Papua New Guinean. Even the Lebanese players - though only one was actually born and raised there - take pride in the shirt because they regularly visit their parents' and grandparents' homelands as well as integrating with a Lebanese-Australian community in the country of their birth. Brough, Brooks and Walker are not proud to be Scottish, simply because they aren't; they have no close bond to Scotland, no Scottish identity.

Wales do have a number of players born and raised in the country such as Elliot Kear, Courtney Davies and Steve Parry.

But, they are simply not good enough to compete; the past two games have demonstrated this.

More competitive

A Great Britain team would also make a call-up seriously competitive. There would be no consolation prize for a place in the Ireland, Scotland or Wales team for those unwilling to push themselves to the top of their game. A Great Britain team would see Super League and NRL stars battle it out for one jersey only - a rivalry that could only benefit the British team.

Just seeing an England shirt in Rugby League does not seem right somehow; the game needs to go back to its roots. Great Britain - with its first test match back in 1908 - seemed to spark a special feeling amongst supporters and pundits that England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales just cannot replicate.

And, with the news - broadcast in May 2017 - that the first Great Britain and Irish Lions tour in more than a decade will take place in 2019 and, with no Four Nations - with England, Australia, New Zealand and a fourth side - until at least 2022, perhaps the RFL are finally beginning to listen; could and should Great Britain be rejuvenated?