Spain aiming high

Spain are set to face Russia and Ireland in their European Pool B World Cup Qualifiers next month.

Rugby league has only been established in the country for three years, but there are already 20 clubs playing domestically.

Aitor Davila is director and general secretary of the Asociacion Espanola de Rugby League (AERL), and is also one of the national side’s key players.

He believes that the qualifying games will raise the profile of the sport in Spain.

“We have aimed to attract new players to the sport instead of relying on rugby union players,” he said.

“This was the key to our success because lots of people came without preconceptions.

“Getting to this stage of the qualifiers is a great achievement for us, all of a sudden people are noticing rugby league in Spain and that our guys have an opportunity to perform alongside some great truly players in the other nations who play at a high level.

“The publicity will hopefully help us find more sponsors, it is very difficult to maintain so many clubs without the correct resources.

“The success of the national squad comes down to one man, Darren Fisher. He jumped at the opportunity to work with a developing nation and became our head coach.

“He has invested a lot of his own money and time to help develop the squad and players love training with him.

“Darren also takes the opportunity to coach local clubs when he gets a chance, this gives the players a boost and helps them see what training at a professional level is like.

“Our national squad sessions are also open to everyone, this is a great way of encouraging new players to get involved.”

Fisher is originally from Castleford, and is looking for his team to make an impression in the qualifiers.

“We have worked very hard and every time I come back to Spain I see a big improvement in their league skills,” he said.

“It has been a privilege to be involved right from the beginning and see the progress in such a short time.

“I try to focus on using a domestic squad when possible, that is fundamental to the development of the sport in Spain.

“Getting to the World Cup would be such an achievement for us but just being involved in these high profile matches can only help develop the sport even further.”

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