Vice Chairman of the Rugby League International Federation Richard Lewis has paid tribute to, “an unprecedented weekend of international rugby league.”
Twelve nations played in six matches over four continents encompassing 2013 World Cup Qualifiers in the European and Atlantic Zones, the first officially rated Celtic Test Match, the Trans-Tasman encounter and the birth of England Knights.
Lewis, who is also chairman of the Rugby League European Federation and the Rugby Football League – who are the organisers of the 2013 World Cup to be held in England and Wales – added, “There is immense pride and satisfaction in seeing Saturday and Sunday filled with meaningful matches and reports coming in from all over the globe.”
“It is a huge testimony to the hard work that has taken place in developing the sport over a number of years in places like Eastern Europe and the Middle East and it is immensely gratifying that those efforts are coming to fruition.”
He was also at keen to point out that so many of the players proudly pulling on their nation’s shirts had been home produced and graduated via domestic competition. “South Africa and Russia and almost the entire Serbian side were, for example, comprised of players who have come to the sport through their domestic ranks. In addition, those who qualify by eligibility have strong blood ties through the grandparent rule and I have sensed a true passion for them to be involved in teams like Italy or Lebanon. Their presence is hugely helping the growth of the sport in those countries.”
He continued, “To note that Scotland and Ireland featured eight debutants and both had seven players who had learned the game in their domestic rugby league competition is hugely heartening for all fans who have the genuine spread and growth of the sport at heart.”
“In Newcastle, the skill levels on display and some of the tries scored in the Australia versus New Zealand clash were, at times, exceptional which augurs well for the opening of the Gillette Four Nations Tournament in 12 days time while the World Cup Qualifiers continue. It is a very exciting time for the international game.”