17th June 2019, 13:18 | university
Brian Carney and Ralph Rimmer have emphasised the significance of the Student Rugby League Four Nations, which begins in Edinburgh next weekend, and of the student game more generally.
England will launch the defence of the Four Nations title they have held since 2014 next Sunday (June 23) against Wales, the 2012 winners.
Scotland will hope to capitalise on home advantage against Ireland later in the day, with a second round of two matches the following Wednesday (26th), before the final standings are confirmed by matches between Ireland and Wales, and Scotland and England, on Saturday 29th.
"This level of the sport is crucial to find and nurture new talent," said Carney, now of Sky Sports, whose unorthodox Rugby League journey began when he represented Ireland Students two decades ago.
"I have Student Rugby League to thank for providing me with the first chance to wear my country's colours in a game, a moment I will never forget. Best of luck to all involved - especially my countrymen."
Ralph Rimmer is also a former student international, in his case for England, having captained Liverpool University - and he shares Carney's view of the student game.
"Student Rugby League is serious stuff on the field, as I'm sure we'll see again in Edinburgh next week - but it offers so much to the sport beyond the field of play," said the RFL's Chief Executive.
"Introducing new people to our sport has to be a high priority for all of us, and so many alumni of the student game have gone on to make a significant contribution, whether on or off the field.
"Student Rugby League is genuinely national, with quality rugby being played on a regular basis from Exeter to Northumbria in England – and now the beginnings of what will hopefully be an equally strong women's competition - and a regular Four Nations competition that will show again the talented players who have taken up the game from Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
"One of the things I was especially keen to do after taking on the CEO role at the RFL was finding a way to introduce better structures to ensure those who get their first taste of the game at student level are encouraged to stay involved, whether as players, spectators, Our League members, or even administrators – it’s something that Alan Darfi, who took over as our Director of Projects earlier this year, is working on, and we'll hopefully be able to provide more details of that in the build-up to the next Student World Cup in 2021."
Keith Hogg, a long-serving supporter of Rugby League in London who was chairman of Harlequins and is now chair of Scotland Rugby League who will host the 2019 Four Nations, added: "For nations like Ireland and Scotland, the Student Four Nations is a vital part of our player pathway. It allows us to bring guys at college through from the Under 19s and give them the experience of playing in a highly competitive and high standard competition.
"The importance of the tournament can be seen from the increased competitiveness of the matches in recent years, with both Ireland and Scotland capable of producing results that would not have been achievable even three or four years ago."
The 2019 Student Four Nations takes place between 22-29 June in Edinburgh.