There is added resonance to this summer's Rugby League European B and C Championships, as they will form part of the European qualifying process for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, to be held in the Antipodes.
Latvia and Spain meet in Riga on 9th May in the opening match, the winners joining Greece and Malta in European Championship C. The nation that emerges on top in that competition will go forward to the final World Cup qualifying pools in 2016.
The reverse fixtures in 2014-5 European Championship B, which will play to a conclusion this summer, will see the top three nations will go through to the final World Cup qualifying pools in 2016. Currently, three nations are tied at the top – Serbia, Russia and Italy – with Ukraine yet to get off the mark but still in contention.
Serbia head coach Marko Jankovic commented, "In our eyes, we are already deep into the qualifiers, as we knew the 2014 matches would be connected to the World Cup.
"We are part of a very interesting competition and aware that the road to Australia and New Zealand will be tough, not only for us but also for the other teams. I wouldn't write the Eastern bloc nations off, including us."
"Our focus at the moment is on the forthcoming Russia match as we are determined to stay on top of our current competition."
The European Championship B and C nations who win through will be joined by seeds Ireland and Wales in a drawn, round-robin, two group World Cup qualifying tournament in autumn 2016.
The sides that finish top of those respective groups will go through to the World Cup, together with the winners of a play off for the final berth between the second-placed nations, held at a neutral venue; Leigh Sports Village in England.
Rugby League Ireland director Richard Egan is looking forward to his nation's involvement. "We are eagerly anticipating the RLWC qualifiers to capitalise on exciting times for the organisation," he said.
"2015 sees a new title sponsor for Ireland as well as a new home with a view to developing further our domestic players on the international stage."
"All this bodes well for the qualifiers and the future, we are hopeful of qualification for another World Cup."
Wales RL COO Chris Thair noted, "There is real positivity emanating from Wales Rugby League at the moment, we blooded a lot of young welsh talent in the 2014 European Championships."
"The format to the World Cup qualifying matches in 2016 looks really exciting and will add further value to renewing our annual battles against Ireland, Scotland and France later this year in the European Championships; it is a fabulous time to be involved. "
Wales coach John Kear added, "It is with great excitement that I look forward to the upcoming three years of international rugby league, we are all excited and invigorated by the challenges that World Cup qualification involves."
"We want to be amongst the best!"
European Championship C - 2015
9 May – Latvia v Spain - Riga
26 Sep – Latvia/Spain v Malta - TBD
10 Oct – Malta v Greece - Marsa
17 Oct – Greece v Latvia/Spain - Athens
European Championship B - 2015 Current table
P W L D For Ag Diff Points
1 Serbia 3 2 1 0 91 40 51 4
2 Russia 3 2 1 0 62 46 16 4
3 Italy 3 2 1 0 82 75 7 4
4 Ukraine 3 0 3 0 44 118 -74 0
16 May – Serbia v Russia - Belgrade
20 June – Italy v Serbia - Gemona
27 June – Ukraine v Russia *
18 July – Ukraine v Italy - Kiev
12 Sept – Ukraine v Serbia - Uzhgorod / Russia v Italy - Moscow
*Due to the ongoing political tensions between Russia and Ukraine and Ukrainian legislation limiting the freedom of movement of males aged 18-60, the Ukraine v Russia match has a provisional date. The RLEF will monitor the situation and consider appropriate actions.
2017 World Cup – European Qualifying Tournament 2016
A live draw will take place on 5th November, 2015 – exactly a year before the final berth of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup is decided - to determine the make up of the two groups of three and the schedule of fixtures.
The winners of each group will qualify automatically. The second placed finishers will play off for the third and final European berth.
Each group will be played using on a round-robin format, with each nation playing one, randomly drawn match home and away.
The composition of the two groups will be decided using three live draws, conducted in October 2015, based on seniority of competition to maintain balanced groups.
Pot 1: Wales and Ireland (seeds 1 & 2) drawn to determine which is in Group 1 and which is in Group 2
Pot 2: First and second placed finishers in 2014-15 Euro B (seeds 3 & 4) drawn to determine which is in Group 1 and which is in Group 2
Pot 3: Third placed finisher in 2014-15 Euro B and winner of 2015 Euro C (seeds 5 & 6) drawn to determine which is in Group 1 and which is in Group 2
Following the composition of Group 1 and Group 2, the fixtures, which will be played on consecutive weekends, will be determined using a second live draw to select teams A, B and C in each group, and based on the following table:
Round 1: 15/16 Oct 16
Match 1 Match 2
A v B (Group 1) A v B (Group 2)
Round 2: 22/23 Oct 16
Match 3 Match 4
B v C (Group 1) B v C (Group 2)
Round 3: 29/30 Oct 16
Match 5 Match 6
C v A (Group 1) C v A (Group 2)
Final qualifier: 5 Nov 16
Second place teams play off for final berth – Leigh
Further world cup qualification information will be announced by the RLIF over the next few days.
DUBAI TO HOST 2017 RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD CUP QUALIFIER
Dubai Sports City, which is hosting games in the new UAERL Nissan Cup, will also be the venue for a 2017 World Cup qualifier later this year.
The winner-takes-all Middle East & Africa Test between South Africa and Lebanon will be played there on Friday 30th October, to decide who becomes the eighth nation to qualify for the competition which will be held in Australia and New Zealand in two years' time, .
Maqbul Dudhia, General Manager of Sports Business, Dubai Sports City said, "Dubai Sports City is delighted to welcome rugby league to Dubai.
"It is an exciting global sport and will sit well alongside the other major sports that are already played across our venues.
"We believe the presence of rugby league at Dubai Sports City will attract even more people to our Sports Village to take advantage of our world-class facilities and we look forward to the sport going from strength to strength here."
MEA Director Remond Safi commented; "Everyone is very excited about the prospect of bringing a first full international to Dubai and it's great that the first ever Middle East Africa World Cup berth will be decided in one of the region's most established event hubs.
"There are a lot of opportunities for rugby league in the UAE and the region and I am sure that this will be the first step in a long and fruitful relationship."
Lebanon RL Federation president Mohamed Habbous noted, "Over the last three years the LRLF has had to fight an uphill battle to maintain all its activities.
"However, with the upcoming World Cup qualifier versus South Africa, we have a chance to take the sport to another level.
"Being on the world stage allows us re-engage with sponsors, fans, and government to firmly position Lebanese rugby league as a staple sport in the country and positive force."
His counterpart at South Africa RL, Kobus Botha added, "South Africa is excited about this opportunity to participate in rugby league's showcase event.
"We have been hard at work preparing and appointed a dedicated coaching team last year who selected a national training squad, and that team has been together for a period of time now.
"They have played several matches against provincial sides and, in the lead up to the World Cup qualifier, they will also play some international matches to prepare us for facing the traditionally tough Lebanese."
Further World Cup qualification information will be announced by the RLIF over the next few days.
EUROPEAN CHAMPONSHIP C 2015 PRE-QUALIFIER: LATVIA 12 SPAIN 32 – Report
Spain join Malta and Greece in the next phase of the Rugby League World Cup 2017 qualifiers later this summer, after their 32-12 win against Latvia at the Upesciema Stadions, Upesciems, just outside Riga, in a European Championship C qualifying tie.
The winners of that tournament this summer will become one of six European nations aiming to take three qualifying berths for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in late 2017.
Spanish winger Hector D’Alessandro was the star, his genuine 11-minute first half hat trick the difference, the visitors also well served by full back Daniel Garcia who claimed 10 points and back rower Matt Dulley.
Spain coach Darren Fisher said, “It was a very difficult game, Latvia came very strongly but I couldn’t be prouder of the players, they showed the passion and believed in themselves and that’s what carried us through to victory.
“It’s a great stepping stone for us and our development and an honour for all the people back home watching the game. We had to show great courage and to move on to the next stage is massive.”
Both sets of players held a minute’s silence for Keighley stand off Danny Jones who tragically passed away during a game last weekend.
From the whistle, there was an obvious contrast, Latvia physically stronger with a bigger pack but Spain technically more proficient and keen to use their fast, agile players.
The visitor’s attack was extremely well marshalled by Ciencias XIII Valencia stand off Ezequiel Pérez-Fuster, who had the honour of scoring the first try on the road to the Antipodes, skipping clear in the eighth minute to the posts, Garcia goaling.
After a period of exchanged possession, D’Alessandro doubled the lead in the 27th minute as the ball was spread wide and he cut inside, Garcia with his second conversion.
The winger completed his treble with two contrasting scores, the first from a magnificent through-the-legs pass by loose forward Ivan Ordaz, the next speeding clear and away from 50 metres, as the Spanish continued to move the ball wide early in the tackle count.
Garcia missed both wide-out conversions to leave it 20-0 at the break
Latvia, with loose forward Mikus Ozols outstanding driving them forward, needed to score first in the second half but Spain started strongly; home full back Kristaps Lusins holding up Alejandro Gordon, but unable to prevent Valencian Warrior Andrew Pilkington, who dummied and went from 60 metres to cross.
Ozols went close and busy Latvian hooker Inguss Aivars was held up on the last tackle, the hosts seemingly further disadvantaged when Lusins was sin-binned in the 52nd minute, after a melee broke out caused by Kārlis Garokalns’s high tackle.
The 12-men rallied, however, Ozols sending Aivis Ašmanis close before crashing over himself in the corner to open the Latvians account, Armands Brovackis missing the conversion.
On the hour mark, Latvia were penalised for interference and Garcia kicked the penalty from 30 metres out to make it 26-4.
From the re-start, Spain knocked on and were penalised, Aivars and Garokalns going close, then Jānis Gabrāns beating three men on a superb diagonal run to score out wide, the conversion again missed.
Dulley’s fine break for Spain was halted by an interception as the game opened up in the closing ten minutes.
Pilkington broke clear and Aitor Dàvila was held up after good work from Ordaz and Pérez-Fuster, Garcia sealing the win with a superb solo effort, chipping over for himself and re-gathering to sidestep across from 50 meters, Pilkington adding the extras.
There was still time for late defiance from Latvia, hardworking Garokalns getting his reward from close in.
“We were disappointing in the first half,” said Latvian head coach Vilmars Sokolovs. “We knew the Spanish would start well and they caught us going to the flanks.”
“After the break we were much better and the game was a good contest but he first half was crucial. We feel positive about the future for rugby league development here. We will be better for the next World Cup.”
Kristaps Lusins, Kristaps Bērze, Rihards Lonskis, Dāvis Bajārs, Edgars Liepājnieks, Mārtiņš Rauziņš, Jānis Kaucis, Imants Liepa, Inguss Aivars, Raimonds Kripa, Aivis Ašmanis, Kārlis Garokalns, Mikus Ozols
Subs (all used): Janis Strads, Jānis Gabrāns, Aleksandrs Kalodinaitis, Armands Brovackis
Tries: Ozols (56), Gabrāns (64), Garokalns (79)
Goals: Brovackis 0/2 Bajārs 0/1
Sin bin: Lusins (60 – running in)
Daniel Garcia, Hector D’Alessandro, Alex Doutres, Andrew Pilkington, Alejandro Gordon, Ezequiel Pérez-Fuster, Aitor Dàvila, Luis Thorp, Gonzalo Morro, Joaquin Fraile, Matt Dulley, Adrian Alonso, Ivan Ordaz
Subs (all used): Diego Lagunas, Hugo García, Christian Domínguez, Carlos Aragonés
Tries: Pérez-Fuster (8), D’Alessandro (27, 35, 38), Pilkington (46), Garcia (76)
Goals: Garcia 3/6, Pilkington 1/1
Man of the match: LATVIA – Mikus Ozols SPAIN – Daniel Garcia
Half time: 0-20
Referee: Chris Hancock (England)
Touch judges: Jaroslav Bzoch and Lukas Hergott (both Czech Republic)
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP C 2015 – Fixtures
September 26 SPAIN v MALTA – Valencia
October 10 MALTA v GREECE – Marsa
October 17 GREECE v SPAIN – Athens
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The Cook Islands Rugby League has announced the following preliminary train-on squad ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Tonga on October 17 at 7.30pm at Campbelltown Stadium.
Cook Islands coach Alex Chan said: “I certainly believe that our qualifying match against Tonga will unveil some exciting and entertaining players.
“I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what this squad is capable of.”
Please note additional players will be added to the train-on squad following finals matches this weekend and next weekend and confirmation of eligibility.
The preliminary train-on squad is as follows:
Francis Molo (Brisbane Broncos)
Makahesi Makatoa (Bulldogs)
Jordan Rapana (Canberra Raiders)
Ezra Howe Junior (Canberra Raiders)
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (Melbourne Storm)
Aaron Teroi (Melbourne Storm)
Eric Newbigging (Parramatta Eels)
Tupou Sopoaga (Penrith Panthers)
Tinirau Arona (Sharks)
Wallace Tangiiti (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
Reuben Porter (Sydney Roosters)
Chance Peni (Wests Tigers)
Esan Marsters (Wests Tigers)
Anthony Gelling (Wigan)
Adam Tangata (Halifax)
Fred Pakutoa (Wentworthville Magpies)
Drury Low (Narellan)
John Papalii (West Belconnen)
The Rugby League World Cup 2017 will be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand and will see the world’s best players from 14 nations battle to be crowned World Champions.
Lebanon RLF has announced an initial 48-man train-on squad for their two 2017 World Cup Qualifiers – MEA, against South Africa in Pretoria towards the end of the month.
Robbie Farah, who made his international debut for the Cedars as an 18-year-old in Tripoli in 2002, and current New South Wales winger Josh Mansour are the headliners included, along with a host of established international players.
"The squad is coming together in what is shaping up to be a big challenge, playing the South Africans in their own backyard," said LRLF director Michael Hedwan, who has been closely involved with the coaching staff assembling the squad. "It has been 15 years since the Cedars last played in a World Cup and the mixture of youth, experience and the strengthening of the local competition indicates Lebanese rugby league has a bright future ahead."
Players like captain Chris Saab and Ray Moujali are some of the longest serving in international rugby league, having represented Lebanon since 2003, winning caps against Morocco, France and Serbia in the Mediterranean Cup and Russia, Ireland, Wales, Italy and Samoa in previous World Cup qualifiers.
Lebanon came agonizingly close to qualification in 2008 and 2013, losing out on points difference both times, but the feeling is that this could be their year. Interest in the sport in the country, despite the social and political difficulties on the ground, is higher than ever.
Major media networks LBCI, Future, Al Manar and MTV are all heavily covering the Cedars' campaign and will be sending crews to South Africa, and the Lebanese ambassador there has been promoting the two-match series throughout the country's sizeable Lebanese population.
Head coach Darren Maroon, in his second stint with the national side, will trim the squad to 20 to make the trip.
Lebanon face South Africa on 25 and 31 October at the Bosman Stadium, Brakpan, just outside of Pretoria. The winner will be the first-ever Middle East Africa qualifier.
LEBANON 48-MAN TRAIN-ON SQUAD
Mark Daoud (Asquith Magpies), Danny Barakat, Jamie Clark, Richard Coorey, Abraham El Zakhem, Ead Kassem, Cliff Nye, Elias Sukkar (Auburn Warriors), Ali Allouche, Michael Lichaa, Anthony Semrany (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs),Casey Ellis, Chris Saab (Guildford Owls), James Boustani (Hills), Ghassan Dandash, Ray Sabat (Jounieh RLFC), Travis Robinson (Melbourne Storm), Ben Chahoud (Mount Pritchard), James Elias, Ryan Glanville, George Ndaira (Newcastle Knights), Daniel Abou Sleiman, Ahmed Ellaz, Tarek El Masri, Ray Moujalli (Newtown Jets), Wes Mourad (North Sydney Bears), Tim Mannah, Abbas Miskie, Reece Robinson, Alex Twal (Parramatta Eels), Liam Ayoub, Josh Mansour (Penrith Panthers), Nick Kassis, Mitchell Mamary (Wentworthville Magpies), Robbie Farah, Mitchell Moses, Jaleel Seve-Derbas (West Tigers), Ali Abou Arabi, Michael Elias, Kevin Sassin (Tripoli City RLFC), Toufic El Hage, Mike Tawk, Wael Harb (Wolves FC), Adham El Zbaidieh, Adnan El Zbaidieh, Karios Filiga, Jamal Nchouki (Unattached), Jason Wehbe (rugby union)
LEBANON TRAIN-ON SQUAD
Mark Daoud (Asquith Magpies), Danny Barakat, Jamie Clark, Richard Coorey, Abraham El Zakhem, Ead Kassem, Cliff Nye, Elias Sukkar (Auburn Warriors), Ali Allouche, Michael Lichaa, Anthony Semrany (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs),Casey Ellis, Chris Saab (Guildford Owls), James Boustani (Hills), Robin Hachache, Rudy Hachache, Ossama Jarouche, Mounir Finan, Raymond Finan, Jason Sakr (Immortals RLFC) Ghassan Dandash, Ray Sabat (Jounieh RLFC), Travis Robinson (Melbourne Storm), Ben Chahoud (Mount Pritchard), James Elias, Ryan Glanville, George Ndaira (Newcastle Knights), Daniel Abou Sleiman, Ahmed Ellaz, Tarek El Masri, Ray Moujalli (Newtown Jets), Wes Mourad (North Sydney Bears), Tim Mannah, Abbas Miskie, Reece Robinson, Alex Twal (Parramatta Eels), Liam Ayoub, Josh Mansour (Penrith Panthers), Nick Kassis, Mitchell Mamary (Wentworthville Magpies), Robbie Farah, Mitchell Moses, Jaleel Seve-Derbas (West Tigers), Ali Abou Arabi, Michael Elias, Kevin Sassin (Tripoli City RLFC), Toufic El Hage, Mike Tawk, Wael Harb (Wolves FC), Adham El Zbaidieh, Adnan El Zbaidieh, Karios Filiga, Jamal Nchouki (Unattached), Jason Wehbe (rugby union)
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