THERE are two ways rugby league fans can view the current union World Cup – but only one of those will benefit our game going forward.

Even at this early stage it is clear that the event is driving a juggernaut through the autumn sporting calendar in a way that it has never done before.

Whether all of the new-found fans will lose interest come October 31 will largely depend on the success of the home nations.

Although it poses a massive challenge, it also presents an opportunity for the sport rugby league.

League people can stand aside as the cavalcade passes by, shouting “boring rah-rah”, “sport for toffs” and “kick and clap” but those words will fall on deaf ears, particularly those with no strong allegiance to the game and who are simply getting swept up by a big sporting occasion.

Surely, given that rugby union is the closest possible sport to league, we should use the fact that millions of floating sports fans are beginning to take an interest in an oval ball to attach ourselves to the coat tails of that juggernaut.

That sounds really undignified and I can hear the groans already.

The frustration, annoyance and anger from league aficionados is understandable.

Not only is the XV-man code’s jamboree getting the sort of wall-to-wall media coverage rugby league’s equivalent in 2013 could only fantasise about, but it is also getting high profile endorsements from the establishment.

Last week’s launch was attended by royals, the Prime Minister David Cameron and the Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

If any of those individuals endorsed rugby league’s equivalent event by attending in 2013 then I must have missed it. Maybe the invite is in the post from the RFL for the test series against the Kiwis.

But this, plus the continuing irritation over union and the media trying to monopolise the word rugby, are in the grand scheme of things peripheral issues.

We have to face facts that this rugby union World Cup has confidently marched into the big cities the length and breadth of England and despite charging huge prices they have had no problem selling tickets.

Geographically they have gone boldly into places away from their code’s traditional strongholds -selling out Wembley and taking games to Manchester’s Etihad, Birmingham’s Villa Park, St James’ Park Newcastle, Brighton and Leeds’ Elland Road.

Imagine the impact that has in the local area, the buzz it sends through the schools in cities overwhelming dominated by football.

These are big events at big venues as rugby union seeks to broaden its appeal.

How does this approach contrast to rugby league, where there is usually an outcry when the game’s governing body tries to push events beyond the heartlands and where, bizarrely, fans rejoice when expansion clubs falter.

A friend of mine texted me on Saturday, after the hullaballoo following Japan’s win over South Africa, and stated: “I think this is the weekend we finally lost the war.”

Well maybe we should stop seeing it as a war.

True, there have been some backward elements in rugby union – nationally and internationally - over the past 120 years who have had a disgusting and bigoted approach to the 13-man code.

For more than a century there have been those who have tried to kill rugby league off; this manifested itself in the way it attempted to strangle its development, ostracise its converts, make the playing of the sport illegal and prevent a free gangway among amateurs.

Having got to know a lot of union people through reporting, both in St Helens and in Birmingham, those backward elements who want league to wither away and die are very much in a tiny minority.

It seems a lot of union attitudes have moved on where league’s haven’t – and maybe that is from the frustration of the other side always seeming to be ‘winning’.

League has shown a really good fighting spirit, in the face that all it has coped with, and despite people writing the game’s obituary for years it is still here strong, vibrant and expanding.

But our code needs to define and celebrate the strengths of its own game rather than resort to the cheap abuse of other sports like ‘wendyball’ and ‘kick-and-clap’ if we are to win over new followers and not look so feeble.

Most of the new people attracted to this year’s world cup would be open to our game too, but we won’t reach them muttering insults from the sidelines like a sporting sect.