Lewis commends World Cup progress

Rugby League European Federation Chairman Richard Lewis has paid tribute the nations competing in what he called a, “compelling, thrilling and hugely successful” qualifying competition for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, which is to be staged in England and Wales.

The process, which has featured both Atlantic and European Zones, came to end in Belgrade on Saturday when Italy claimed the 14th and final berth after a dramatic 19-19 draw with Lebanon; the Azzurri taking the place by virtue of a better points’ difference.  

They join the USA who made the Finals after defeating Jamaica the week before, both the Tomahawks and the Italians being World Cup debutants.

“It has been a wonderful three weeks of exciting and competitive rugby league involving seven nations that has showcased the huge progress being made in international rugby league worldwide,” he continued.

“Each nation has made a significant contribution and should be commended first and foremost for the number of domestically-produced players that have appeared in their squads.”

“There is an enormous amount of development work being taken on the ground, supported by the RLEF, which is illustrated by the quality we have seen on the field. The sport as a whole should be very proud of the genuine progress being made.”

He added, “There are huge positives for all the nations who took part and a model now for the up and coming ones to aspire to and emulate. The likes of Jamaica, Serbia, South Africa, Russia and Lebanon are already planning for the next shot at a World Cup, which will be in the qualifying for which is set to start in 2015.”

“Club rugby in those and our other member nations is increasing apace, participation numbers are on the increase at senior, junior and university level and these are genuinely exciting times.”

“I am equally convinced that, with two years to prepare and a massive amount of goodwill and support, that USA and Italy will make a major contribution to the World Cup tournament here in 2013.”

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