England have some catching up to do but the Ashes will help us do that

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Great Britain's Adrian Morley takes on Australia in 2003 - the last time an Ashes series was played (Image: Getty Images Sport)

It’s a really positive news story that we’ve got a World Cup in place for 2026, the Ashes are back again and we have an international calendar through to 2030.

It’s something for all players and fans of the game to look forward to. You want to see the best versus the best, country versus country, and we now have a dedicated schedule for that now which is outstanding. It’s the one thing we’ve been lacking in rugby league for a long, long time: a planned international calendar. If we stick to that plan - and there's no reason we shouldn't - the game will gain momentum and more people will watch it as it becomes a self-fulfilling cycle. It’s exciting news for the sport.

I know people who are already excited by the Ashes 2025 down in Australia and planning to go there before the Kangaroos come here in 2028. It’s great that England will have New Zealand touring in 2027 but we’ve not played Australia in the Ashes for 20 years. We improve internationally when we play regularly against Australia. We’ve not been able to do that. I think the gap has widened and it will be a challenge for us to get closer to them over the next two years before heading down there.

But regular games against Australia - and New Zealand - creates that. The Ashes is one of the oldest sporting rivalries in the world and we’ve just seen that with the cricket how that’s brought to life. The 2025 men’s World Cup has been reduced in number to ten nations but ten is good. You always imagined it’d be a smaller competition with the way France pulled out of hosting in 2025. I know 2026 is still a few years away but it’s still a bit last minute to run a World Cup so it’s the right decision to reduce it from 16 nations.

Rugby league’s problem is it’s an unforgiving sport; if there is a big difference in quality in opposition, normally you get very lopsided games. You can’t park the bus in rugby league. The 2025 World Cup will be in the southern hemisphere and it’d be great if some of the Pacific nations, like Tonga and Samoa, could host games.

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Having experienced a World Cup semi-final in Auckland with all the Tongans there, I do feel those islands should get a chance to have some World Cup games. There’s plenty of people there who don’t have the means to travel to Australia or New Zealand to watch international games. This gives them the chance to do that: support their own country.

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Jamie Peacock

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