28 Sep 2016

Spanish rugby league is looking to put itself on the map with their forthcoming World Cup European Pool B Qualifiers against Russia and Ireland. The sport is new to the country, having only been in existence for three years but already has over 20 teams playing, principally in the Valencia region and around Madrid which has already seen the institution of regional representative matches.

According to Aitor Dávila, director and general secretary of AERL, as well as being one of the national side’s key players: “We have aimed to attract new players to the sport instead of relying on rugby union players, 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.”

Speaking from Valencia Dávila continued: “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 (pictured). 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, who originally hails from Castleford, has widened the national team’s playing base through his contacts in the sport and is keen 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 says. “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.”