The fixture details have been confirmed for rugby league’s Alitalia European Cup which will be played this autumn.
Rugby League European Federation General Manger Danny Kazandjian expects the Alitalia European Cup, which mirrors the matches to be played by England, Wales and France in their Triangular Tournament, to be highly competitive.
“The two Celtic nations are preparing for next year’s World Cup and England Knights were looking for fixtures on consecutive weekends to continue to build their structures and spirit,” he said. “Alitalia have been and continue to be superb sponsors for this competition.”
Originally it had been hoped that Italy would be participants but, because of the precarious financial situation in the country at present, they are concentrating their efforts on the European Shield, where they top the table and play in Russia on Saturday.
Kazandjian noted, “When coupled with the significant expenditure FIRL committed to the World Cup qualifiers the Italian rugby league felt it was not in a position to support the national squad for a further three weeks, even with a support package from the RLEF.”
“It was an extremely difficult decision for FIRL to take, and their board, with the close co-operation of the RLEF, has decided to undertake a full review of their governance to ensure they are running as efficiently as possible in this challenging economic climate.”
England Knights coach Keiron Purtill sees the two internationals as a significant test for his charges.
“We’re really excited to be heading into a competition environment,” he said. “Our mission is to get the group ready to push for England places for the World Cup in 2013. We’ve got a few new faces in the group and that competition for places will be fiercer as a result. The programme is in its second year now so most of the players know what’s expected of them, and we’re really looking forward to a good preparation in camp and then playing Ireland and Scotland.”
Scotland will be coached by Dave Rotheram during the tournament as head coach Steve McCormack has been given leave of absence for personal reasons. McCormack, who has coached Scotland with Rotheram as his assistant since 2004, will retain his position as Head of Performance at Scotland RL and return as Head Coach in preparation for the 2013 World Cup.
Rotheram commented, “We are really looking forward to this year’s Alitalia European Cup the squad and staff are very excited to be playing in Edinburgh the National Capital for the first time ever. With the 2013 World Cup coming up, this competition will prove invaluable for our long term planning and preparation.”
His sentiments are shared by Ireland coach Mark Aston. “We are delighted to be participating in the Alitalia European Cup,” he declared. “With the World Cup just over 12 months away it will give us the ideal opportunity to start our preparation in earnest. We played against the England Knights before the first Exiles game and for 35 minutes we competed with only a limited amount of preparation and players available so we certainly looking forward renewing that battle.”
ALITALIA EUROPEAN CUP SCHEDULE
14 October: SCOTLAND v IRELAND, Meggetland, Edinburgh 1400 hrs
19 October IRELAND v ENGLAND KNIGHTS, Belfast Harlequins, Belfast 1930 hrs
28 October: SCOTLAND v ENGLAND KNIGHTS, Meggetland, Edinburgh 1400 hrs