European Championships cancelled as international calendar left in tatters

James Gordon
England v France at Halliwell Jones Stadium News Images

Photo: Steve Flynn/News Images

The European Championships, scheduled for the end of 2023, have been postponed due to the ongoing uncertainty around the international calendar.

The Euros had provided a glimmer of hope for the international game in the northern hemisphere, as the sport awaited the many-times promised worldwide calendar, hampered by the ongoing wrangle Down Under between the NRL and its players and clubs.

For the first time, eight teams were due to participate and the groups had been drawn – with England scheduled to face Ireland, Scotland and Serbia in one pool, and France taking on Italy, Spain and Wales in the other.

The cancellation of the 2025 World Cup in France has led to uncertainty over whether that tournament will go ahead, and as the Euros were due to act in-part as a qualifier for the event, it has been put on hold until the path comes clearer.

ERL chair Dean Andrew said: “It was a tremendously difficult decision, but the circumstances have left us in an almost impossible position. It is very disappointing that we have to delay the staging of these events, but it is the only sensible course of action available to us.

“At the moment, International Rugby League is considering its options for the next World Cup and requires time to finalise details, but this has left our members with little planning time to arrange affordable flights and accommodation on the current schedule. Once RLWC2025 details are known, we expect a revised, transparent and inclusive qualification pathway to be confirmed and fixtures rearranged.

As International Rugby League is not due to make further RLWC2025 hosting decisions until at least July 2023, and is therefore unable to give clarity on revised qualification requirements or financial subsidies for those events, the ERL board felt it impossible to ask national federations to continue planning for this year’s tournaments.”

The European Rugby League board had met following the news of France’s withdrawal from hosting the World Cup, and there remained hope that the European Championships would still go ahead.

But all World Cup qualifying linked events for 2023 have been postponed – including two European Championships, the Middle East & Africa Cup and the Americas Championship. The women’s European qualifiers have also been cancelled.

It now means that at present, the only scheduled international rugby league for 2023 is the test series between England and Tonga.

It’s another blow for European Rugby League, who have already twice postponed their plans to re-launch the Euros – first because of COVID in 2020 and then because of the delayed World Cup in 2022.

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