If the development of international rugby league is compared with an ascent of Mt Everest, the sport isn't even close to base camp.

That's the view of Rugby League International Federation chairman Nigel Wood, who is charged with putting together a new calendar for the next four-year cycle and beyond.

The Kiwis played England overnight (NZT) in Hull in a clash between two of the top three league nations in the world.

That series was prefaced by the tests in Auckland involving Australia, New Zealand and Tonga, and there was also an emerging nations tournament in Sydney earlier this month.


There are second and third-tier nations in action during the next few weeks in Europe, including Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, Serbia, Spain and Russia.

In December, the United States will host a World Cup qualifying playoff in Florida, with Canada, Jamaica and Chile in the mix with the host nation, and by this time next year, there could be as many as 60 countries playing the sport.

That is encouraging but Wood knows there is a long way to go.

"If the aim is Everest, league is still sitting in the backpackers hostel in Kathmandu. There's been progress and we are edging our way forward. The job over the next five years is not to climb Everest but simply to get to base camp one."

League will never compete with union on a global scale, simply because of the historical development of the codes. Rugby was built around international games, while league was anchored around club fixtures.

But the sport, for the first time, is heading towards a strong, consistent international calendar.

"We are beginning to form a coalition of the willing, to make that a reality," said Wood, referring to the national federations, the NRL and Super League clubs and the players' unions.

"The important thing is the players want it ... they want to play. And the supporters want it. Virtually everyone wants international rugby league, it's just how much of it."


That will be decided in the next two weeks, as the RLIF meets to hammer out the schedule for 2019 and beyond.

"It's an exciting development," said New Zealand Rugby League chief executive Greg Peters. "It's something we haven't had for a long time ... consistency of content over a cycle. Hopefully it will be a four-year proposition."

The Kiwis are expected to renew their rivalry with England next year, with the Lions likely to make a trip to the Southern Hemisphere. It is expected they would play at least two tests in New Zealand, with a game against a Pacific side built around that.

New Zealand are also due to face the Kangaroos in Australia in October, and Tonga next June.

"That is the proposal at the moment," said Peters. "It's still in the evolutionary stages, and commercially, it has to stack up, which is a much bigger piece of work. But we are very excited about the possibilities."