After months of speculation over whether or not the fixture would take place, New Zealand Rugby League officials have finally revealed that their national side will play England in an international Test match at the Mile High Stadium in the Colorado capital of Denver in June 2018. Simultaneously, the #NZRL also announced that Test matches with England will take place in the US for the next three years in a bid to expand the game in North America and the international game overall.

Why Denver though?

Denver - Colorado's largest city - already has popular American football, baseball, basketball, hockey and football sides. Whilst taking Rugby League to the city may seem a sporting overkill, there is a real appetite for sporting events and to experience something new in the city and the Colorado state as a whole.

What could be better than seeing one of the most physically demanding and exciting sports on offer?

Rugby League has seen many of its players leave to join the rival code, Rugby Union, because of the attraction that Union's international game seems to have - as well as the money factor - and the fact that players can travel the world as a Union player regularly. Going to Denver may seem like a bolt out of the blue, but playing a match in the iconic 76,000-capacity Mile High Stadium will be something that no other Rugby League player will ever have experienced. As clichéd as it sounds, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Which English or New Zealand sportsman doesn't want to be involved in that?

It also offers an extraordinary chance to showcase the sport's talent to an audience widely suited to the fast-paced, skilful and hard-hitting characteristics of Rugby League.

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A critic may point to the fact that playing this tie in New York - home of a new franchise that will aim to enter the British leagues in 2019 - would be far more suitable. But, that interest in New York is clearly already there, taking it to Denver means that locals will see the sport for what is likely to be their first time.

If anything, the Test match could leave a stamp on Denver for years and even decades to come. With the USA hosting the 2025 Rugby League World Cup, these fixtures played out over the next three years could prove just the tonic to continue the rapid growth of the sport in North America. If this World Cup is to be a success, it needs the support of a vast swathe of North America. This summer fixture offers just that chance to spread interest. North America as a whole has substantial participation and commercial potential, not just New York and Toronto.

Problems with the NRL

The excitement over the fixture in this country has been counteracted by the apathy of the NRL.

The NRL is seemingly growing too big for its boots; there has been a lot of unhappy murmuring emanating from top sides, unwilling to release their players for any type of mid-season international fixture. Even though the Test will be played on June 23 - a weekend which includes an NRL bye and the second State of Origin clash, as well as a blank Super League weekend - there is still a lot of bartering that needs to be done if NRL clubs are to release their players.

It may well be an arduous trek mid-season - a 21-hour trip there and back is not something to be scoffed at - but it is one which could have groundbreaking effects on the sport. If NRL clubs are too fixated on their own season to ignore the ever-increasing demand to expand the international game then the game can and will never grow.

Action against reluctant clubs

In fact, according to the Daily Telegraph, that NRL clubs will be given heavy fines if they do not release players for the Test. Alongside the mainstream concerns over the NRL's reluctance, there are also private fears that there will be an influx of player withdrawals similar to that of the City versus Country game in recent years which has meant a great loss of interest and support in that concept.

Though there is anxiety at the thought of player welfare, former Kiwi captain Simon Mannering is in favour of the fixture. "Growing our game internationally has to be a priority — think of the opportunities we could create for our game if it was a genuine international sport played all over the world.

"I know it'll be tough for some NRL clubs to see the importance at first, but if we really care about the game, then I think it's something we have to support. I definitely will."

If one supports, then more are likely to follow

Canberra Raiders, despite still trying to cover the loss of Josh Hodgson following a serious injury sustained in the 2017 World Cup, have already given the green light to release players. They are the first NRL club to do so, despite them also being one of the staunchest supporters of salary cap relief for injured players, an issue which is the main reason why clubs Down Under are reluctant to release players for the kind of international fixtures like the one in Denver.

This attitude from the Raiders' hierarchy is a good start, but more need to get on-board. There is currently a massive disparity between the attitudes of British clubs and those in the NRL towards the international game and fixtures such as these. But, if NRL clubs come round to the idea this fixture in Denver could be the catalyst for greater international exposure and success. Isn't that what everyone associated with Rugby League wants? #RugbyLeague #EnglandRL