The countdown to RLWC2017 continues and teams have started to arrive in Australia for the start of the tournament. This weekend there have been several international matches played in the region and in Europe, some were official test matches which count towards ranking points and others were representative games not played to full rules and therefore not counting towards the official World Rankings.
Suva - Wales
Australia and ONG travelled to Suva to take part in what, Australian coach, Mal Maninga is describing as Rugby League's version of 20:20 Cricket. It was a Tri-series played over one day with each team playing two 40 minute games against each other. Clearly the attraction of watching this version of international rugby league, the opportunity to see the current World Champions and the chance to support their home nation attracted a good crowd to the stadium.
Fiji face Australia in the first match which saw the victory go to the visitors with a score of 18 - 0, this was followed by a competitive game between PNG and Australia which saw theworld champions record a hard fought 20 - 4 victory over the Kumuls. This left a final game between PNG and Fiji for second place. PNG ran out as 10 - 0 victors in what had proven to be a successful event and one to give some though for the future.
Cardiff - Wales
Germany travelled to Cardiff with their full strength squad including Leeds Rhino's Jimmy Keinhorst to take on a Wales Dragonheats team selected entirely from the Wales domestic competition. This was a return fixture after the Welsh travelled to Germany last year and came away with a narrow victory. As expecected the game was tight from the start with only a small number of points ever between the two teams. They shared 14 tries between themselves and in the end a couple of goal kicks delivered revenge for the visiting Germans with a 38 - 34 victory.
Perpignan - France
France had their first warm-up game for the World Cup before heading out to face England, Australia and Lebanon in the group stages. Jamaica continued their expansion efforts and travelled to France for the first time ever. As we have come to expect, the game was super-competitive with France's strength allowing them to run out as 34 - 12 winners, but on this form, the Reggae Boys will continue their march up the rankings and challenge for a place in RLWC2021
Sydney - Australia
A further busy weekend of international and representative games at many levels, adult male, female, under-age and all well supported by local communities. In amongst the games was a World Cup warm-up for Lebanon who face a stiff test in RLWC2017 against Australia, France and England in the group stages. They faced Niue in a warm-up game and will be pleased to emerge as 32 - 16 winners. Across town, Malta faced Hungary with the Knights taking the game by 48 - 16.
In what must be one of the most eclectic events ever staged in a single sports match, 79 countries were represented when the GYG Latin Heat faced Africa United. There was massive enthusiasm, pride and skill on show as Africa United ran out winners by 36 - 22 in an enjoyable and competitive event, which went a long-way to demostrating exactly why Rugby League and international rugby league in particular, is becoming so popular.