The participation figures that highlight the David and Goliath task facing smaller World Cup nations

James Gordon

Picture by Allan McKenzie/

The European Rugby League annual report highlights the size of the task facing some of the smaller nations at the World Cup.

The governing body details participation numbers across its member nations, including England and Wales.

England (75,238) boasts 10 times as many rugby league participants as nearest rivals France (7,123) in the data from 2021.

Facing those two in Group A of the World Cup is Greece, who have qualified for the tournament for the first time. There are just 190 registered participants – defined as coaches, match officials or players – in Greece.

That is still three times more than Italy (60), who will face the might of Australia, as well as Fiji and Scotland in Group B.

Wales is next with 1,703 participants, which is an increase of 23% from the previous year. Ireland more than doubled their participant numbers to 420 in 2021, while Scotland declined to 369.

The most active nation outside the UK was Serbia (703 participants), who as well as playing regular international matches, were responsible for 58 matches in 2021.

They unfortunately didn’t qualify for the World Cup, nor did Malta (696), though many of their players are registered in Australia.

DOWNLOAD: Click here to view the European Rugby League annual report

Other World Cup participants Jamaica (78) and Canada (350) also feature in the figures. USA, who didn’t qualify, have 519 registered participants.

Jamaica’s defeat to Cumbria in their World Cup warm-up fixture suggests they might find the going tough in their group, which features New Zealand, Ireland and Lebanon, though their domestic-based players will surely benefit from the exposure.

As well as participation figures, the ERL’s annual report details governance and financials.

It posted a net profit of £25,089 in 2021, compared to a loss of £82,081 in 2020, and remains responsible for the Middle East and Africa and Americas regions.

Full members of the ERL are England, France, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Lebanon, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, Ukraine and Wales.

World Cup participants Canada, Greece and Scotland are all affiliate members, along with the likes of Germany, Ghana and United States.

There were a total of 20 senior international fixtures in 2021 involving ERL member nations, with a further 10 played in affiliated competitions.

That included the European Championship B, won by Serbia, and the Wheelchair Celtic Cup won by Wales.

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