FIRST the good news. Given all of the uncertainty in the build-up and the rumbling and grumbling Down Under, it is fantastic for international rugby league that England’s senior team will host a competitive, meaningful test series this autumn against a Tonga team bristling with NRL stars.

The Aussies and Kiwis may have swerved the opportunity to return to the Old Dart so soon after the World Cup, but having Kristian Woolf bring his charges here for a ground-breaking three-match series is good for the islanders, England and the sport.

It also allows a degree of unfinished business for the Tongans in St Helens – with the town’s Totally Wicked Stadium hosting the first test on Sunday, 22 October.

By that, it is a chance for all of the fine community work the Tongans did whilst based in St Helens during last year's World Cup to finally pay off.

Woolf and his team left many memories across the borough with numerous school visits during their stay here, training at Saints.

Alas, that was not translated into huge ticket sales given the prohibitive cost for a cluster of World Cup fixtures so close together.

This time – with a five-month run up – and with just three games to sell and with it more moderately priced without undervaluing the prestige of the fixture, the sold-out signs are sure to go up.

There is not only the strong bond at St Helens with former coach Woolf, but Saints currently have three Tongan internationals in their ranks - Konrad Hurrell, Agnatius Paasi and Will Hopoate.

That should help towards a strong home turn out – but the fans will pour in from Leigh, Widnes, Warrington and Wigan too. And beyond.

Let us remember that places like Bolton pulled in a gate of 23,638 for the England World Cup clash against France. Not all of those were paid up members with club allegiances – something we constantly forget with international sport.

And this, in a way, is where we have to look at whether the choice of test venues is ambitious enough – particularly on the back of building from a World Cup.

St Helens yes, for obvious reasons, Leeds too as the rugby league heartland’s biggest city and a stadium befitting of hosting an elite event.

But to have a second test in Huddersfield – a few miles down the road from Headingley – shows a distinct lack of ambition.

Sure, it will give the game an opportunity to pat itself on the back to see three moderately large heartlands venues sell out.

And of course, Huddersfield – the game’s birthplace - is geographically convenient for existing club-attending rugby league fans to get to from both sides of the Pennines.

But one of the missions of the World Cup was surely to broaden the game’s appeal. International rugby should be deployed to open doors to other areas and raise its profile, not simply throw a comfort blanket around its core base.

And that is what we go away from with this selection.

Pre-Super League – when the pro game was still part time – rugby league was bold enough to take internationals to Wembley in 1990, 92 and 94 and pull in decent crowds and capture some imagination. Cue image of Jonathan Davies flying in at the corner at beneath the old Twin Towers.

Playing all three England test games within a 55-mile stretch of the M62 smacks of a total lack of ambition.

And it seems it is something we keep on doing as a sport.

We have a World Cup that again goes ambitiously far and wide, maybe too wide to build significant roots and then in some places get a kicking through the turnstiles for it, then recoil back into the foetal position. (I should point out some of the ‘heartlands’ attendances were equally as derisory.)

This series, against an opposition as dynamic and eye-catching as Tonga, should have had a test match in England’s capital city.

Failing to do this is missing out on a glorious opportunity to project and sell our game beyond the very narrow geographical bounds that the club game inhabits.

Do we have to spell it out? A wider audience means more numbers watching nationally, that equals more coverage, an increased package to sell to sponsors and a raising of our whole game's profile and its stars.

If we simply keep trying to keep this game to ourselves – in our own communities, as wonderful as they are - then it is not that we won’t grow, we will shrink.

Sometimes we need to look at our game - and how it looks - through the eyes of outsiders and then we may get a different result.

It is too late now for this year, the decision has been made - but for future reference they could and should gone to Fulham, Brentford, Tottenham, Arsenal etc and why the next time the Aussies show a flicker of interest in reviving the Ashes that an inducement should be Wembley.

There will be enough contact details from the large number of folk from the south who attended the World Cup games, not just the one at the Emirates, to give confidence on numbers.

And heartlands fans do really have to get something else out of their heads, when games are taken to London – like the World Cup semi of 2013 – a very significant chunk of the 67,500 were not northerners.

It is not a case of it just needing northerners to shell out on the journey – there are folk waiting to support this game if we could only share it with them.

We all want to get to a day where Jack Welsby, Lewis Dodd and Jonny Lomax are as recognisable in the wider world as Owen Farrell, but alas with a strategy as conservative as this that would only happen if they switched codes.