Meninga wants sevens heaven for Nines
AUSTRALIA coach Mal Meninga has told of his strong and passionate desire to take the World Nines global - starting with a World Cup in four years in Europe.
Speaking ahead of the two-day World Nines to be played at Parramatta's Bankwest Stadium this Friday and Saturday, Meninga said the event should mimic rugby union Seven's and be taken to Hong Kong, the United States, New Zealand, Russia, Europe, Africa, England and South America.
Despite being pre-tournament favourites, Meninga said his Australians would be "up against it" to beat a star-studded 12-nation field.
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Asked about a global Nines tournament, Meninga told The Daily Telegraph: "I love the idea of taking the Nines global, I want to see the national game thrive. It would be a great way to showcase our great game right around the world.
"I'd love to see it being played around the world like the rugby union sevens - an international Nines tournament in different parts of the world. I can certainly see it happening. I just hope the vision is that vast.
"We can look at Hong Kong, United States, New Zealand, Russia, Europe, Africa, England, South America - there are a whole heap of opportunities.
"Obviously the event could also be played in Australia as well. Anywhere that plays rugby - this is a just a different version of the Sevens that would be really exciting for players and becomes an aspirational thing for rugby league players.
"There are a lot of ex-pats right around the world who would follow it. It would express our game in the right light if we took it global.
"In four years' time, I could imagine, hopefully, that we have an international World Cup if Nines, maybe in Europe somewhere. Let's try it there and see how that all goes.
"We all know the rugby Seven's is a huge success globally. I can't see any reason why we can't do the Nines in a similar fashion. I'm sure the players will love the experience.
"We just need to get that corporate support that would enable us to take it around the world. It starts this Friday at Bankwest - Sydney's best stadium - and it's going to be a spectacle.
"At this stage it is to be played every four years in between the World Cups but I'm hoping down the track it can be played in other parts of the world."
This will be the first World Nines since Super League ran tournaments in 1996 (Suva, Fiji) and 1997 (Townsville), New Zealand winning both.
Meninga said his Australians would confront multiple powerful nations including New Zealand, England and Tonga.
"I remember coaching the Australian Nines team in Suva in 1996 and we only made the semi-finals," Meninga recalled. "We will be up against it and will have to be at our best to win it.
"We're not a lay down misere to win but we have a good side - a lot of youth, a bit of experience, lots of speed and skill. It will be a tough event so who knows what will pan out?
"There are only nine players across a full field so anything can happen. The Kiwis and Poms look really strong, then you have the x-factors with the Kumuls, the Fijians, how quick, strong and athletic they are.
"Then you have the Tongans and Samoans as well. There could be a smoky that gets through."
Australia's first match on Friday night will be again old foes, New Zealand, who will field Shaun Johnson, Dylan Brown and Canberra's Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.