Preparations underway for third European Youth Championships in Serbia

Drew Darbyshire

Belgrade is preparing to host the third European Youth Championships in which eight countries will take part.

The European Youth Championships will take place from August 5-11, ten years after the last one took place in Prague, Czech Republic.

Eight nations will participate in the tournament, with Ukraine replacing Russia, after the Bears were forced to pull out due to financial difficulties.

Russian Rugby League president, Denis Korolev, commented: “This decision was very difficult and stressful for the ARLK and taken in consultation with the tournament organizers.

“It is as a result of us not being an official sport, recognised by the government here, since 2010. That has had a significant influence on state funding and potential sponsorship.”

Ukraine Rugby League president, Artur Martyrosyan, said: “The participation of the Ukrainian team is a great chance for us, and a new important step for the development of rugby league in the nation.”

The inaugural tournament was staged in France in 2006, with the hosts winning the final in Barcares near Perpignan. They swept aside England with a side that contained current Catalans Dragons players Mickael Simon and Vincent Duport.

Two years later, in Prague, and with the age level at Under-18s, Wales were triumphant, defeating France 38-24. London Broncos ace Rhys Williams and Widnes Vikings forward Gil Dudson were in their victorious line up and then England head coach Tony Smith was the guest of honour and undertaking coaching clinics.

Tournament Director this time, Jovan Vujosevic, noted: “This is an historic moment for the development of rugby league in Europe.

“I was involved in both of the previous Youth tournaments and was tournament director for the Under-16s European Championships in 2007 and 2009, and have seen the sport grow at youth level.

“It is a significant moment to see this level return and I anticipate it will be the start of new chapter in European rugby league history, and that more nations will join in future.

“More youngsters than ever before are playing the sport across Europe and national governing bodies have recognised the need for this level of competition domestically, because these young players are the future.“

All the matches will be staged at the 4,000 capacity Sports Center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Makiš, situated eight kilometres west of the city centre, near Lake Sava, in the district of Ada Ciganlija.

Opening fixtures on Sunday, August 5:

Ukraine v Wales

Ireland v Scotland

Serbia v England

France v Italy