Scotland’s Rugby League stars will be looking to go one better than last year as they begin their Alitalia European Cup campaign with a home match against Wales at Old Anniesland in Glasgow this Sunday (2.30pm kick-off).
Coach Steve McCormack has selected a 30 man squad for the tournament which will also see the Scots playing against France in Albi (16th October) and Ireland in Dublin (24th October). A total of six players from the Engage Super League feature including Huddersfield Giants’ talismanic half back Danny Brough.
Sunday’s match against Wales, a repeat of last year’s European Cup Final in which Wales won 28-16, will see Gareth Thomas (aka Alfie) make his bow in competitive international Rugby League after winning 100 caps for Wales at rugby union. The visitors are also likely to include Warrington’s Lee Briers, Carnegie Challenge Cup final man-of-the-match and recipient of the Lance Todd Trophy.
“It promises to be a fantastic match,” exclaimed coach McCormack “and any contest between the Welsh and ourselves is sure to be entertaining especially with so much top quality Rugby League talent on view.
“This could be a major stepping stone for Rugby League in Scotland. If we were to win the tournament we would be guaranteed a place in the 2011 Four Nations with England, Australia and New Zealand. That would put us at the pinnacle of the international game so there is a lot to play for,” added Steve.
Danny Brough, the former Hull, Castleford and Wakefield player who came so close to helping the Giants reach this year’s Super League Grand Final, is delighted to be back in the Scotland Rugby League fold. The last of his eight international caps came in 2008.
“I may qualify through the parentage rule but that doesn’t make me any less proud to pull on the Scotland jersey. I’ve had some good memories with Scotland and I’m intent on helping to make 2010’s European Cup a successful one.
“The Welsh team is littered with Super League stars including Gareth Thomas and Lee Briers and they’ll present us with a stiff test but what a game for any rugby fan? We are all well aware of the prize at stake for winning this tournament and how it could help to push the profile of Rugby League in Scotland. It would be great to be part of that,” added Brough.
The squad also includes two players from Scotland’s domestic Rugby League competition in Craig Borthwick and Giles Lomax, both of the Edinburgh Eagles. Selection is a dream come true for Lomax, a Sport & Exercise graduate at Edinburgh’s Napier University: “Progressing into the full Scotland squad is a lifelong dream.
“It’s pretty daunting going into a squad with the likes of Danny Brough and Ben Fisher. Both are on form players at the moment in the Super League and it’s a bit of a strange feeling trying to pick up pointers from these guys whilst watching them on the TV and now to be in the squad with them competing for positions.
“I’ve had a good season so far and I’ll need to keep showing that form. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and I’m going to give it everything. I’ve got to prove that I can be a valuable addition to the squad and that I’m a real contender for the match day seventeen.
“There are some fantastic players in the squad this year but if I can learn some new skills and get as much as I can out of the experience I’d hope to be in the running for a place in the 2013 world cup squad,” added Giles.
Wales’ Gareth Thomas was keen to build up the tournament and commented: “We’re in the Alitalia European Cup to win it. The carrot at the end of it, to play in next year’s Four Nations against England, Australia and New Zealand is massive. They’re the real big guns and the opportunity is something we don’t want to miss.
“We want to play against the best. It’s all about building Rugby League in Wales and the building its profile. If we don’t win this then it’ll be an unsuccessful campaign.”
The full squad is as follows:
SCOTLAND: Gareth Moore (Batley Bulldogs), Lee Paterson (Carpentras XIII), Jamie Benn (Castleford Panthers), Brad Massey (Coventry Bears), Dean Colton (Doncaster), Rob Lunt (Doncaster), Craig Borthwick (Edinburgh Eagles), Giles Lomax (Edinburgh Eagles), Jon Steel (Featherstone Rovers), Crawford Matthews (Gateshead Thunder), Sam Barlow (Halifax), Oliver Wilkes (Harlequins), Danny Brough (Huddersfield Giants), Joe Wardle (Huddersfield Giants), Ben Fisher (Hull KR), Neil Lowe (Hunslet Hawks), John Duffy (Leigh Centurions), Dave Arnott (London Skolars). Andrew Henderson (Sheffield Eagles), Jack Howieson (Sheffield Eagles), Brendan Lindsay (Sheffield Eagles), Mitch Stringer (Sheffield Eagles), Alex Szostack (Sheffield Eagles), Richard Hawkyard (Swinton Lions), Dale Ferguson (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats), Kevin Henderson (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats), Dexter Miller (Whitehaven), Spencer Miller (Whitehaven), Brett Carter (Workington Town), Paddy Coupar (Workington Town)
Alitalia European Cup fixtures
Saturday 9th October – France v Ireland (Avignon) 3.30pm CET
Sunday 10th October – Scotland v Wales (Old Anniesland, Glasgow) 2.30pm
Saturday 16th – France v Scotland (Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse) 3.30pm CET
Sunday 17th October – Wales v Ireland (The Gnoll, Neath) 2pm
Saturday 23rd October – France v Wales (Stade Municipale d’Albi) 3.30pm CET
Sunday 24th October – Ireland v Scotland (Tallaght, Dublin) 2.30pm
The Stamperland Pipe Band, otherwise known as the Stampies, will be warming the crowd up before the Wales match at Old Anniesland, home of Glasgow Hawks, with the traditional ‘Flower of Scotland’ anthem.