Six nations will take part in the inaugural women’s European Championship B, which is set to kick off during the mid-season international window next month. They will be divided into two groups, with Ireland, Italy and Wales playing in the north, and Greece, Serbia and Turkey contesting the south, giving them all valuable playing experience leading into qualifying for the 2025 Rugby League World Cup.
“It is a huge step forward for European Rugby League and our aims to both grow and diversify our competitions portfolio in Europe,” said ERL general manager, David Butler. “The growth of the women’s game is very important to us and with six European nations due to play at the Rugby League World Cup in 2025, the European Championships B will play an important role in raising the standards of Women’s Rugby League across the continent.”
The northern group will commence when Ireland make the historic journey to face Italy at the Pasian Di Pato Rugby Stadium near Udine in the North-East of the country on Saturday 11 June, with Italy making the journey to South Wales for a clash at Crosskeys RFC near Newport on Sunday 19 June. The final match of the group will see Ireland host Wales on the weekend of 8/9 October, with details to be released in due course.
In the southern group, fixtures will be played on consecutive weekends starting on the 24/25 September when Greece travel to Turkey and then host Serbia the following weekend. Serbia will be at home to Turkey on 8/9 October, with details of the games to be confirmed later in the year.
For Italy, the launch of the competition allows them to honour the legacy of their late vice president Tiziano Franchini, a passionate advocate of the women’s game, who will be in their thoughts when they take to the field for their first game.
“The women's rugby league project was one of the most important for the Tiziano, and FIRL want to carry it out in the best possible way.” commented Paolo Iollo, vice president of the Italian Rugby League Federation. “We are doing everything possible to support the players and to enhance their skills and experience ahead of the tournament.”
“We have to optimize our time to prepare for this important event, especially our first match against Ireland,” added Alberto Suini, Italy women’s head coach. “All our attention is directed to the team to ensure they arrive prepared and ready on match day. The players are enthusiastic and they want to play!”
Ireland head coach, John Whalley, is excited by the opportunity. “Playing in the European Championships is great for us” he said. “It will be the acid test we need as a squad to see where we are at, playing teams higher up the world rankings is what we all want to be a part of. These opportunities will benefit our domestic game, with qualifying for the RLWC2025 firmly in our sights, playing the best teams in Europe will benefit us long term.”
Tom Brindle, head coach of Wales women, noted: “It’s a really positive and welcome step that there is now a formal competition for the women’s game across Europe. It is developing at tremendous rate, building toward what will be a ground-breaking World Cup in France in 2025. The Euro B competition now allows us to plan, build a performance and development programme and attract sponsors to help us continue that growth year on year.”
Wales v Ireland women photos courtesy of Dean Livingstone Photography