RLWC 2013: McNamara hoping Wembley boosts rugby league

McNamara eyes boost in the south

England head coach Steve McNamara hopes that staging the Rugby League World Cup semi-finals at Wembley will give the game greater exposure in the south.

Both last-four ties will be played at the venue on Saturday, 23 November.

He told BBC London: "There is no bigger event than the World Cup. We want as many of our hard-core fans to get there and to attract a new audience.

"We want to expose people to what we know is a fantastic sport. Hopefully this will do the trick."

Last month, Rugby Football League chief executive Nigel Wood said the tournament's two games at Wembley would be vital to the sport's future.

With London Broncos currently Super League's only club in the south of England, McNamara hopes playing games in the capital will help bring new fans to the sport.

"We want to engage the whole community in London and get them down to the stadium," he continued.

"In the overall scheme of things, we are very strong up north but we feel our community game is really growing down south.

"They haven't quite got that team to grab an affinity with, which I think you need.

"Hopefully the England team will be the one Londoners engage with and it hooks them on rugby league for the rest of their lives."

McNamara hopes the World Cup, which begins in October and sees the final staged at Old Trafford on 30 November, will help the sport move away from its image as a 'northern' game.

"It probably bugs us a little bit," he said.

"We are a whole-country sport. We are making inroads but there is still a bit of a north-south divide.

"That is predominantly because most of our professional clubs are based along the M62 corridor.

"We have got some work to do but we are not frightened of the challenge.

"This World Cup is providing us with great stadiums like the Millennium Stadium, Wembley and Old Trafford.

"We are trying to spread the word and hopefully the semi-finals will increase the progression even further.

"With Oxford and Hemel Stags we are starting to branch out and a lot of people play the sport. It just doesn't get the national exposure.

"It is important we maximise every single area."