Wales & Ireland seeded for World Cup qualifiers

Wales and Ireland are to be the seeded teams in the main European Qualifying Tournament for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

The draw for the tournament is to be made on November 5 this year, while the fixtures will be played in autumn 2016.

The tournament will consist of six sides, split into two groups of three, with each nation playing one home and one away fixture.

The other four teams to feature along with Wales and Ireland will be determined this year via the European Championship B and C competitions.

As both Ireland and Wales are seeded, they cannot be in the same group of three teams.

“There is real positivity emanating from Wales Rugby League at the moment. We blooded a lot of young welsh talent in the 2014 European Championships,” Chris Thair, Wales Rugby League’s chief operating officer, said.

“The format to the World Cup qualifying matches in 2016 looks really exciting and will add further value to renewing our annual battles against Ireland, Scotland and France later this year in the European Championships.

“It is a fabulous time to be involved.”

Wales coach John Kear was relishing the chance for his squad to play international games which have a wider significance.

“It is with great excitement that I look forward to the upcoming three years of international rugby league,” he said.

“We are all excited and invigorated by the challenges that World Cup qualification involves.”

The winners of each group will qualify automatically while the second placed finishers will play off for the third and final European berth at Leigh Sports Village on November 5th 2016.

The composition of the two groups will be decided using three live draws based on seniority of competition to maintain balanced groups. One team from each pot will be in Group 1 and one will be in Group 2.

The European Championship B competition is at its halfway stage with Serbia, Russia and Italy each with two wins from three games. Ukraine prop up the table having lost all three of their games so far. All teams have faced each other once with the return games taking place this year.

European Championship C will be a three team competition between Greece, Malta and the winner of an upcoming qualifying game between Latvia and Spain in Riga on May 9.

EUROPEAN QUALIFYING DRAW:

Pot 1: Wales and Ireland (seeds 1 and 2).

Pot 2: First and second placed finishers in 2014-15 European Championship B (seeds 3 and 4).

Pot 3: Third placed finisher in 2014-15 European Championship B and winner of 2015 European Championship C (seeds 5 and 6).

FULL EUROPEAN QUALIFYING FIXTURES:

European Championship C – 2015 fixtures:

9 May – Latvia v Spain – Riga

26 Sep – Latvia/Spain v Greece – TBD

10 Oct – Malta v Greece – Marsa

17 Oct – Greece v Latvia/Spain – Athens

European Championship B – 2015 fixtures:

16 May – Serbia v Russia – Belgrade

20 June – Italy v Serbia – Gemona

27 June – Ukraine v Russia *

18 July – Ukraine v Italy – Kiev

12 Sept – Ukraine v Serbia – Uzhgorod / Russia v Italy – Moscow

2016 European Qualifying Tournament:

Round 1: 15/16 Oct 16

A v B (Group 1)          A v B (Group 2)

Round 2: 22/23 Oct 16

B v C (Group 1)          B v C (Group 2)

Round 3: 29/30 Oct 16

C v A (Group 1)           C v A (Group 2)

Final qualifier: 5 Nov 16

Second place teams play off for final berth – Leigh Sports Village

*Due to the ongoing political tensions between Russia and Ukraine and Ukrainian legislation limiting the freedom of movement of males aged 18-60, the Ukraine v Russia match has a provisional date. The Rugby League European Federation will monitor the situation and consider appropriate actions.

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