4 Oct 2016

Spain has named five debutants among their finalised 22-man squad for their forthcoming 2017 Rugby League World Cup European Pool B Qualifiers against Russia and Ireland.

Hull FC youngster Joel Laynez (19) and Leandre Torres (24) of Palau XIII Broncos are included, alongside Torres’ team mates Pierre Negre and former French international prop Mathieu Griffi. Kevin Aparicio of Stade Francais RU is the fifth debutant. He signed for Gloucester All Golds in 2015 on a short-term deal. Griffi and Negre have played in the Asociacion Espagnola de Rugby League's regional preparation matches in the build-up to the qualifiers.

“As the games approach so is our excitement and the squad is looking forward to coming together and having one last push in training,” said coach Darren Fisher. “Our domestic players have been working continually hard and they are in really good shape to have earned a place in the 22, it’s not been an easy task to finalise the squad.”

Fisher added: “We have worked hard to achieve the best balance of domestic and experienced players to give us a chance of making history by qualifying but also building for the future. The challenge is huge but I am confident that they can compete at the next level.”

Several members of the squad from the domestic league have been with Spain since they started playing international rugby league only three years ago; Matt Dulley, Aitor Davila, Daniel Garcia, Ivan Ordaz, Gonzalo Morro and Luis Thorpe coming from six clubs in Valencia, Madrid and Barcelona.

Back-rower Laynez, whose participation has been part crowd-funded by Hull fans commented: “My grandad was born and raised in Spain and I know it means a lot for him to see me in a Spanish jersey. He thought he’d never see the day, it will be an honour to put on the shirt and a moment I’ll cherish forever.”

Pictured:  Former Catalan Dragon Mathieu Griffi will provide experience in Spain's front row. 

Chris Lopez (Army Rugby League), Antonio Puerta, Daniel Moreno (Custodians Madrid), Ivan Ordaz (Irreductibles), Joel Laynez (Hull FC), Clement Laguerre (Los Gossos), Alex Doutres, Cedric Bringuier, Leandre Torres, Mathieu Griffi, Pierre Negre (Palau Xlll), Kevin Aparicio (Paris XV), Matt Dulley (Paterna Dragons), Miguel Charters-Blanco (Seaton Rangers), Gonzalo Morro (Tonneins), Aitor Davila, Juan Pablo Rango, Raul Simo (Torrent Tigres), Adria Alonso, Andrew Pilkington, Luis Thorp (Valencia Warriors), Daniel Garcia (Woolston Rovers)