Rugby League: League nerves over centenary: Union's 1995 World Cup raises fears of clash

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THE game has unveiled the blueprint for its centenary next year, but it remains a blueprint with a hole until an autumn World Cup tournament is confirmed as its centrepiece.

Plans for the commemoration of the breakaway from rugby union in 1895 include special matches and events in Huddersfield, the birthplace of the code, an issue of stamps, and the launch of a version of the game designed for young children.

As yet, however, there is no guarantee that what is already dubbed the Centenary World Cup is to be played at the only logical time: October 1995.

The Rugby League is nervous about the possibility of rugby union switching its own World Cup (scheduled for the summer of 1995) from South Africa to Britain at that time. 'We need to consult with our international partners in February,' the League's chief executive, Maurice Lindsay, said. 'But it is our intention to have an autumn World Cup.'

In that case, and in view of the fact that there is no other sensible time, it was a shame that a launch yesterday at the George Hotel in Huddersfield, where the breakaway decision was made more than 98 years ago, should have come across as being in need of more substance.

If, after almost a century of separate existence, the game lacks the confidence to go ahead with its international celebration for fear of another sport, the founders whose foresight was being lauded yesterday should be spinning in their graves.

Not that there is anything wrong with the other plans, as far as they go. The George was considerably more packed than it can have been in 1895 to hear Michael Parkinson, a convert to the code co-opted as a front man, and the League's officials introduce a varied programme of events.

Founders' Day will be celebrated on 28 August in Huddersfield with a service, reception, parade and, at the new Kirklees Stadium, a concert and firework display.

The anniversary of the breakaway the following day will feature the final of the Student World Cup and the first England versus Australia schoolboy international.

After that, the focus will broaden to take in events in traditional rugby league areas and beyond. There will be an inevitable element of nostalgia with clubs being encouraged to revert to a centenary strip based on their original colours.

'This is only the skeleton plan for the centenary and we will be able to put much more meat on the bones later,' Lindsay said.

That must include firming up what will be the biggest tournament in the code's history as soon as is humanly possible. Otherwise, another C can be added to the League's promise that it will celebrate, commemorate and capitalise upon the centenary. It will stand for excessive caution, possibly even cowardice.