The European Championship final is set to be staged in France, after the schedule for the 2023 tournament, which will also act as a World Cup qualifier, was announced.
Eight nations were drawn in to two groups earlier this month, with England grouped with Ireland, Scotland and Serbia.
England will make a historic first ever trip to Serbia on November 4 as part of the schedule, following a home game with Ireland on October 21 and a visit to Scotland on October 28.
With an autumn test series against Tonga still up in the air, although it is ‘very likely’ to go ahead, it would appear that England Knights will participate in the Euros.
The two highest placed nations in each group outside of England and France – who have already qualified for the 2025 Rugby League World Cup – will join them there, with the others going into the final qualifying competition in 2024.
There will be four games each weekend of October 21, October 28 and November 4, before the final between the two group winners on November 11/12.
European Championship holders France have earmarked the competition as the start of the journey to performing well in 2025, when they will host the World Cup.
Head coach Laurent Frayssinous, now assistant at St Helens, said: “We’ve got to use all the time from now to build up to hosting the World Cup and this championship is an important part.
We want to spend more time together and our group has a good Mediterranean mix, with Italy and Spain likely to include a lot of players from the French competition. We faced Wales last year and the way John Kear motivates his players, and on the back of a good World Cup for them, it will be a real test.
“Hopefully we can make the final and keep the trophy, there has always been an appetite for international rugby league in France which will also help give further profile to the domestic game.”
Revitalised European Championships
There has not been a European Championship since France beat Wales in the final in 2018, with COVID forcing the cancellation of the 2020 tournament and the delayed World Cup putting paid to it running in 2022.
An England side hasn’t appeared since the Knights won the 2012 European Cup by beating Scotland and Ireland, with Italy withdrawing prior to the event. That England Knights team featured Tom and George Burgess, Luke Gale and Mike Cooper.
It is the first tournament since the European Rugby League federation announced its exciting new format, that will see promotion and relegation between its four different championships.
The European Championship B comprises of six teams – Greece, Norway and Ukraine in Group A and Czech Republic, Germany and Netherlands in Group B. The two group winners will earn promotion to European Championship A, and also feature in World Cup qualifying next year.
They will be joined by the teams who finish second highest in each group behind England and France, for a place at the 2025 World Cup.
European Championship schedule
21st October 2023 – England v Ireland, Scotland v Serbia
28th October 2023 – Scotland v England, Serbia v Ireland
4th November 2023 – Serbia v England, Ireland v Scotland
21st October 2023 – Spain v Wales, France v Italy
28th October 2023 – France v Spain, Italy v Wales
4th November 2023 – Wales v France, Italy v Spain
11th November 2023
A further announcement confirming the exact day of the weekend, kick off time and venue for each match is to be confirmed. Fans should not book travel until that information has been advised.
The winners of each group will progress to the final.
The highest placed team in each group behind England and France will earn qualification for the 2025 World Cup.
The next highest placed team in each group will take on the two group winners from European Championship B in 2024 for two further places at the World Cup.