FAR & WIDE: Ireland, Czech Republic, Japan, Greece, Hungary, France, Malta

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD
IN locations as diverse as Bray, Ireland, Prague, Czech Republic and Tokyo, Japan, our international season got underway at the weekend.
In Bray, the Irish Wolfhounds were taking on Malta and the home side ran out 56-10 winners. It was only in the dying stages they ran away with the match, however with the score 22-4 at halftime and 34-10 with 18 minutes to play.
Greece have had a tough year domestically, with the country expelled from the European Federation for a number of administrative irregularities.
But they have shown their fighting qualities with a successful visit to the Japanese capital, winning 74-0.
The game was played on an artificial surface in front of a vocal crowd of a couple of hundred. Australia-based players now proceed to Athens for a number of rugby league events.
In Prague the Czechs went down heavily to the visiting Ukraine, 64-12. The Ukraine won the earlier match 46-6, meaning they will be the side to progress in the World Cup qualifiers.
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AN innovative series played over the weekend was the Capitals of Europe Nines in Budapest.
The tournament at Epitok Sports Field featured teams from London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Belgrade, Paris, Vitez and Budapest.
London Warriors took out the event. Hungary are taking part in the Cabramatta Nines next year.
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MEETINGS are continuing aimed at having Emerging Nations curtain-raisers for next year’s World Cup in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
There now appears to be an alternate plan under consideration – a seven team Emerging Nations World Cup played in western Sydney.
The matches would all be played between November 20 and 25, with venues to include Pepper Stadium and Campbelltown Stadium.
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FORMER international Marc Palanques has joined the RLEF board as a representative of France.
Elsewhere, Wests Tigers’ Daniel Burke, alongside Jordan Grant and James Mirceski are newcomers to Serbia’s squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers – starting with this weekend’s visit to Wales.
Spain have also called up a couple of foreign-based stars, Hull’s Joel Laynez and Leandre Torres of French outfit Palau XIII.
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FAR & WIDE: United States, Malta, Norway, Czech Republic, Jamaica, Canada, Wales, Germany, Thailand

Far & WideBy 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.
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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.
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JAMAICA and Canada have met in the first youth international for each team.
The Canadians won the Under 17s game 24-4 in Kingston.
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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.
@RLWfarandwide

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FAR & WIDE: Number 46

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD

RUGBY League’s lucky number at the moment seems to be nine.
Following on from last week’s item about the AMNRL and USARL going their separate ways once more this year, the former has put out a media release saying it will play against teams in the latter in … a nines tournament.
“AMNRL clubs will participate in the Nines competition alongside clubs from the USARL on May 17,” said the media release.
“This is the first step in uniting the competitions into one league, which is a direction the AMNRL is seeking to head down.”
AMNRL chairman Curtis Cunz was quoted as saying: “”I can’t wait to put the politics aside and see all of the boys I used to go to battle against back in the day and then crack a few beers open afterwards
“The AGM re-enforced the democratic and transparent governance of the AMNRL and the shared vision of the member clubs.”
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THERE seems to be a lot of professional players coming through who are eligible for Malta.
The latest is Jonathan Wallace, who was due to make his debut for London last weekend against Salford. The giant forward was actually born in Malta.
Jake Mamo, who played for Newcastle in the NRL Nines, is also eligible for Malta.
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AFTER missing out on hosting the 2017 World Cup, South Africa have congratulated Australia and New Zealand and vowed to bid for the 2021 tournament.
“South Africa will now endeavour to work with the Rugby League International Federation to ensure the growth of the sport here and will look at establishing a strong team to qualify for the 2017 World Cup,” said SARL chairman Kobus Botha.
““All of the facilities and aspects unique to South Africa to ensure expansion of the game are still available to the RLIF”
Bid chief Ian Riley added: “Rugby league in South Africa now has a voice and the process of bidding has allowed SARL to start conversations with SASCOC, the SRSA and SARU towards recognition and support.
“It has also created dialogue between, and shown a willingness by, major rugby league countries to get involved and play a role in developing the sport. We are in discussions with the RLIF on creating a seven year roadmap for rugby league in South Africa and other territories to see how we can collectively grow the game.”
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FAR & WIDE: Number 39

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD

CONGRATULATIONS to everyone involved in Greek Rugby League on the news the national federation has been officially recognised by the government.

The Hellenic Rugby League has, as a result, been given ‘observer’ status by the RLEF.

“Now that the Hellenic Federation of Rugby League is recognised by the Greek justice system we can put the sport on the map here,” said official Tasos Pantazidis.

Elections will be held shortly. Far & Wide witnessed a great presentation on social media by another Greek official, George Stilianos, at the recent RLEF AGM.

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AS is often the case with international rugby league, some of the things we announce in this column just don’t come to fruition.

So it is with the Malta-Italy international which was set down for later this month. Some financial guarantees weren’t forthcoming and the game is off.

There was going to be a cap on the number of professional players in each team so it would have been a nice boost for local players from the Mediterranean countries.

Alas, our game isn’t exactly flushed with funds, so these things happen. Far & Wide is hearing the Mediterranean Cup, on the other hand, could be revived after a few years in recess.

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A LITTLE piece of history for the game a couple of Saturdays back when the USARL ‘Championship game”, or grand final, was played as part of a double-header with the international between the United States and Canada at Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.

And you could argue it was a double victory for rugby league in the United States.

The US Tomahawks squad is slowly starting to absorb players from the ‘rebel’ USARL and the side to be coached by Brian Smith at the World Cup scored a 44-16 win to level the series with the Wolverines.

And in the USARL decider, locals the Philadelphia Fight beat the Jacksonville Axemen 28-22 to capture their second title in three years.

The crowd for the double-header was reported to be around 1000.

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MORE details about the upcoming tour of South Africa by NSW Country have been announced.

The game against Gauteng Combined Clubs Select will take place at Bosman Stadium in Brakpan on Ocrober 12, with the same venue to pit the bush boys against the full South African side six days later.

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FAR & WIDE: Number 37

Far & WideBy STEVE MASCORD

WE’RE pleased to confirm that Malta will be taking on Italy at Livorno on September 6!*

The international, which we foreshadowed in a previous column, has just been confirmed and means the Azzurri will have a better World Cup preparation than most of their rivals.

Livorno is near Pisa. The countries are negotiating a deal which would involve them fielding no more than seven overseas-based players, to promote domestic activity.

Well done. Would love to be there.

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WE received a call last week from Shannon Crane, the man behind what was previously described as the “rebel” league in Thailand.

In fact, says Crane, his organisation pre-dates by several months the one that fielded a team against the Philippines last October.

Crane, a former Penrith junior coach who moved the Bangkok in 2004 to pursue business interests, actually attended that game but disapproved of the number of expats in the Thailand Stars team.

“We didn’t even think of staging internationals – our focus was on getting a domestic competition up and running first,” said Crane.

While the RLIF is yet to take sides in Thailand, Crane’s group owns most of the trademarks associated with Thai Rugby League and will be getting serious in the next few months.

Doug Keen will be coaching referees later this year, a six team competition (four in Bangkok and two in Pattaya) is due to kick off next year and his side plays Greece at a major stadium on October 12.

He says he has big name companies lined up as sponsors and insists to put down solid roots in the Kingdom, you need to live there.

“I have nothing against Andrew Charles and the people who put together the Thailand Stars,” he said.

“I have had a meeting with him and offered to work with him, share everything. So far, they’ve insisted on doing their thing and we are pressing on with ours’.

“The Thailand Stars are not the national rugby league team, though.”

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OK, NOW we have got to the bottom of THAT, how about this?

What’s worse than two warring governing bodies in a country where there is very little actual rugby league? How about one of those warring governing bodies having two warring websites?

The establishment AMNRL, which is sending the United States team to the World Cup, used to have a site called AMNRL.com, which disappeared and then came back and didn’t appear to have been updated for some time.

Now AMNRL.com is back, with a recently-written story about the World Cup. But it has a rival called AMNRL.org, which redirects to club pages.

Anyways … at least there rival leagues are hosting a joint event this weekend. Let’s hope they settle their differences over a few beers.

* NB: Since this story appeared, the Malta-Italy international has been cancelled.

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