By STEVE MASCORD EUROPEAN Countries are getting ready for the final stage of World Cup qualifiers, with the matches played in the coming weeks.
Pool A includes Wales, Italy and Serbia while Pool B comprises Ireland, Spain and Russia. The top two in each group automatically qualifies for Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, with second in each playing off for the final berth.
The tournament kicks off on October 15 at Moscow’s Fili Stadium, when the host country takes on Spain.
Of the six teams involved, Spain and Russia would be regarded as the outsiders.
. THE United States Rugby League is again making a push towards the Wesr Coast.
Jacksonville Axemen founder and Floridian league pioneer Daryl ‘Spinner’ Howland recently reached out to interested parties about getting a competition up and running.
He received quite a response.
It’s to be hoped those involved in California previously, such as Zane Hirtzell, Col Manners and Ben Everill can be involved.
We’ll keep you posted.
. SINCE our last column, we had the great announcement that the Women’s World Cup would be run concurrently with the men’s tournament next year.
And while Sydney controversially missed out on most of the men’s tournament, Wooloware’s Southern Cross Stadium will host the pool matches and finals.
The final itself will be played at Suncorp Stadium on December 2, the same day as the men’s final.
It’s a feather in the cap of RLWC CEO Andrew Hill that he was able to mend bridges between the tournament organising committee and the NSW government by attracting funding.
One can only assume the bridges were burned by former boss CEO, given that the government offered the men’s tournament no funding at all.
The US is playing Canada on October 1 at Wilmington, Delaware, and F&W will be there!
. THE RLEF is continuing to rebuild rugby league in Greece. It recently conducted match official training there, accrediting the country’s first female referee, Zoe Valassa.
By STEVE MASCORD JACKSONVILLE Axemen have been the outstanding team of American rugby league for the last decade but they were toppled in the USARL grand final a couple of weekends back.
Northern Conference champions Philadelphia Fight took out the big one 42-20 at Boston University after eliminating the local club the previous week.
The Fight finished the season undefeated.
The US has announced a clash with Canada at Wilmington, Delaware on October 1.
. FORMER Penrith and Celtic Crusaders star Jarrod Sammut has been named in Malta’s squad for the upcoming internationals against Ireland and Thailand.
The Ireland game is in Bray on October 8, the Thailand match in Chiang Mai on October 28. The Knights will have different coaches for each match.
NORDIC Cup winners Norway are about to put their pride on the line with an away international against the Czech Republic.
The match will take place at RLC Dragons Krupka Stadium on September 24 (4pm kick-off if you’re thinking of going.
The sides last met three years ago, with Norway winning 26-14 in Oslo.
. JAMAICA and Canada have met in the first youth international for each team. The Canadians won the Under 17s game 24-4 in Kingston.
. SOUTH Wales Scorpions have been rebranded South Wales Ironmen and the club’s new CEO is a former rugby union international, Lee Byrne who wants to pilot the team into Super League.
A number of Scorpions/Ironmen players have been named in the Welsh side which is about to embark on a tour of Germany.
THE 2016 Ohana Cup at Honolulu’s Aloha Stadium has been run and won, with organisers hailing the ever-expanding festival as a success.
Samoa enjoyed a big 40-6 win over Tonga while Fiji beat newcomers Canada 26-12. That was a pretty good debut for the Wolverines, considering half their side was back in Toronto playing the touring North-east England side.
In the curtain-raiser, NSW Police beat Hawaii Chiefs 26-20. Hawaiian league chief Steve Johnson is still trying to tempt NRL sides to the Islands.
. SPAIN and Serbia are to meet for the very first time on September 24, in the not-unpleasant locale of Valencia.
The Spanish have a big World Cup qualifier against Ireland at the same locale in October and will warm-up against the Serbians at Quatre Carreres. If you’re thinking of going, the game kicks off at the very Mediterranean time of 5pm.
The Serbians are looking for a new coach after Darren Higgins stood down.
“We regret Darren could not fit his professional and personal commitments together with the obligations needed for the Serbian national side,” said SRLF general secretary Slobodan Mank.
“We thank him for all he has done to raise the standard, he has put in some long lasting structures which we will benefit from.”
. CANADA are easily the most active international side at the moment, having fielded a “full international” side in two cities in two countries on the same day recently!
The Wolverines Under 17s side is currently on tour in Jamaica. The new British League One expansion side, Toronto Wolfpack, helped finance the Young Wolverines tour, which kicked off with a win in a Nines tournament.
Canada also fielded a military team against the full Czech Republic side recently, losing 64-0.
. AS we’ve said before, the rivalry between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Island puts NSW v Queensland in the shade.
But one similarity this year is the result, with Northern Ireland sealing the Origin series in game two, a 24-20 victory at Chambers Park, Portadown.
By STEVE MASCORD WALES have announced a ground-breaking tour of Germany in October.
They’ll play a warm-up in England at the end of September before taking on a British Army combination in their first match on German soil.
The international against the Germans will be played on October 22 with the venue yet to be announced.
The Dragons side will be chosen purely from residents. Tyson Frizell need not pack his bags.
The Germans are coming off a narrow win in the Griffin Cup; they beat the Netherlands just 8-6 in Rotterdam.
The final hour was scoreless with spectators describing the clash as intense.
. THERE’S an interesting annual match in Serbia – the national side takes on the national under 23s.
If all players under 23 played for the juniors, how do you think such a match would go in Australia.
In Serbia, it was the old fellas who ran out victorious recently, 68-22.
. IN Ireland they have an Origin match with real feeling – the Republic of Ireland v Northern Ireland.
The series has kicked of this year and Northern Ireland won 34-30 in a cracker of a match. Looks like the domination of the fellas from the north isn’t just restricted to the southern hemisphere.
. WE’RE supposed to be unbiased here at Far & Wide but we have to admit we have a favourite club – the Toronto Wolfpack who enter the British third tier next year.
And recruitment is going well for North America’s first club team to play in a European club competition and the first pro side of any sport to be involved in promotion and relegation.
Hull FC youngster Reece Dean has signed on, as has Bradford’s Welsh international Dan Fleming..
DON’T forget Far & Wide 360 is back on Fox Sports’ NRL 360 on the first Wednesday of each month. @RLWfarandwide
The thing about the series which is intriguing is that one game will be riddled with controversy and rancour and the next will be just as enthralling to watch but have fewer talking points.
That’s not to say there’s nothing worth talking about today.
Billy Slater’s knee injury has him in doubt for Origin III and the performance of Akuila Uate under the high ball will no doubt be poured over in the weeks ahead. Should NSW change a winning team?
There were also a couple of contentious refereeing decisions. Was Johnathan Thurston’s strip before Josh Morris’ try legitimate? And Queensland should have certainly been the recipients of a line dropout in the second half when Michael Jennings knocked the ball out of Brent Tate’s hands.
But with Petero Civoniceva making his farewell and a full house in three weeks, I still think the Blues will be right up against it in the final match of the series. Queensland by 12.
IRELAND coach Mark Aston makes a great point about the current set-up in the Home Nations, which mirrors the southern hemisphere where NSW and Queensland are recruiting the guts out of other countries.
The advent of the England Knights cuts off Ireland, Scotland and Wales from a lot of players who might be tossing up which country to play for.
This is a legacy of the chase for Sport England funding. With the departure of Richard Lewis, it’s time for a re-think regarding Great Britain and we should revisit the idea of Lions tours.