Cummins believes success of World Cup will spark growth in popularity of rugby league at grass-roots level (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Francis Cummins believes success of World Cup will spark growth in popularity of rugby league at grass-roots level
Bulls coach Francis Cummins is hopeful that a lasting legacy will develop from what has been widely recognised as the most successful World Cup in rugby league history.
Matches were sold out from Warrington to Halifax and from Toulouse to Old Trafford, where the crowd of 74,468 for last Saturday's final set a new record for international rugby league.
The aggregate attendance of 457,483 fans for the 28 matches easily outstripped the 238,855 that watched the 31 matches at the ill-fated 2000 World Cup, the last one to be organised by the RFL.
And even without a headline sponsor, it is thought the tournament will go close to doubling the £2million profit generated by the last World Cup, which was held in Australia in 2008.
“We were all anticipating it being a car crash weren’t we?” said Cummins.
“Not the actual games because the one thing you can count on is the fact that the players always deliver on the pitch.
“There were some cracking games but it was about raising the profile of the sport to the general public.
“This is me talking as a rugby league fan because the tournament has taught the rugby league public how to be a supporter again.
“People have gone out there, supported the game in their droves and been treated to some great entertainment. The crowds have been fantastic so hopefully the sport can really kick on now.”
Cummins believes greater participation numbers at the grass- roots level will ultimately help the game to flourish and allow the national side to challenge New Zealand and Australia consistently.
For the Bulls boss, it should start with schoolchildren playing touch rugby, allowing them to gain basic ball- handling skills.
“It’s about getting more people involved and playing rugby league, particularly touch rugby in schools,” said Cummins.
“A lot of kids would have seen these incredible athletes playing a version of the game which is probably out of their reach, but it’s important to get kids handling the ball from a young age.
“That allows the skills to develop and they can go and become the World Cup heroes of the future.”
Had England reached the final and not lost to New Zealand in such heartbreaking fashion, the profile of the sport would have risen immeasurably.
As it was, Shaun Johnson’s dramatic last-minute try killed their dream but Cummins is confident the national side will continue to prosper.
He would like to see more regular matches with Australia and New Zealand and a return of the Great Britain team.
The Bulls coach added: “It would have been absolutely huge to reach the final but what a great game that semi-final was.
“It was probably the best international game I’ve ever seen… I was like a big kid jumping up and down on the couch and shouting at the television!
“But England can take confidence from that. They were pipped on one play by New Zealand but some of the performances from England’s players were great, particularly the pack.
“They have just got to get a regular international programme now and it would be nice to see the Great Britain team back together and maybe have a tour.
“Even if it meant Super League having no games for a week so that a mid-season Test could be played; it might even be Great Britain versus New Zealand while the State of Origin is being played.”
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