11 Apr 2024

The road to the 2026 Women’s Rugby League World Cup in the southern hemisphere starts on Saturday (13 April) when the opening European qualifier takes place. The group B match sees favourites France take on Greece at the Stade Georges Dartiailh, Marmande in the south west of the country, kick off 4pm local time.

The group winner, with Serbia also in group B, will qualify automatically while the runners up will play their equivalent in group A – involving Ireland, Wales, Netherlands and Italy – for a place in the augural World Series next year, to determine the final place in the tournament.

This weekend’s game is a first between the nations, with their men’s sides having met in their sole encounter 18 months ago during the last RLWC. 

France go into the match on the back of some encouraging performances in 2023, including a 14-4 victory over Wales and a 116-0 triumph against Serbia.

France women’s head coach, Romain Maillot, commented: “We are taking this match very seriously as there is so much at stake with qualification to the Rugby League World Cup on the line. I expect a Greek team that will play hard to meet their own ambitions of qualification. 

“We have had some turnover in the squad since our last game against Wales, but I have the confidence in all of the players and our wider group have been working together for some time, so they know what is expected of them. We need to continue our strong performances and this is the state of mind in which we have prepared.”

Greece have three players in line to make their debut, Kalliopi Louloudi and Sotiria Skouroliakou of Aris Eagles and Marianna Chali of Athens Raiders. All four Greek domestic clubs are represented in their 19-player squad.

Their last outing was a 14-0 home loss to the Netherlands in December 2023, in a year which also saw them beat Serbia 8-4 in Belgrade. 

Jim Minadakis, Greece women’s head coach, noted: “We've been building women's rugby league in Greece since 2018, played our first international match in 2019 and now we are playing World Cup Qualifiers which is a dream come true. We know France will be our hardest opponent yet, but I believe we are up for the challenge. We have prepared well these past few months and I am extremely proud of the effort put in from our girls.”

His captain, Ourania Koutsikou, added: “I cannot really shape my excitement into words. One thing I’m sure is that my team will leave everything on the field and we’ll fight hard to show all of our effort over the last months.”

James Spencer from Ireland will take charge of the fixture having been a graduate of the European Rugby League match officials education programme which has contributed to neutral referees being appointed to all games in the qualifiers.  

Amael Vilanove, Inès Legout, Mahault Pommier (AS Ayguesvives XIII ), Tallis Kuresa (RC Bègles XIII), Dorine Samarra, Manon Samarra, Perle Ramazeilles, Stecy Bessiere, Salomé Segala (RC Lescure Arthès XIII), Cristina Song Puche, Fanny Ramos, Justine Roses, Leïla Bessahli, Margot Canal, Pauline Noe, Sarah Menaa (Saint-Estève XIII Catalan), Chahrazad Himoudi, Hélène Leclerc, Nabila Zaghdoudi (Toulouse Ovalie) 

Anna Limperi, Asimina Mastoraki, Christina Macris, Cleopatra Velmachou, Kalliopi Louloudi, Maria-Anna Lamprou, Maria-Eleni Gkirlemi, Myrsini Pappa, Sofia-Margarita Kitsaneli, Sotiria Skouroliakou (Aris Eagles), Chrysi Lymperidi, Georgia-Fotini Koutsimpogeorgou, Magdalini Stavrianou, Marianna Chali, Ouranua Koutsikou, Sofia Anagnostopoulou (Athens Raiders), Dimitra Papoutsi, Velissaria Koutsioumpa (Attica Rhinos), Ekaterini Varypati (Zante RL)