In a major gesture towards reconciliation, the American National Rugby League and USA Rugby League have agreed to jointly host the second Colonial Cup Test match between the United States and Canada.
The USA Tomahawks will play the Canadian Wolverines at A.A. Garthwaite Stadium in Conshohocken, PA, on Saturday, August 24, 2013. The international match will follow the USARL Championship Final.
The AMNRL and USARL have held separate competitions since 2011, but acknowledge it is in the best interests of rugby league in America to come together in this Rugby League World Cup year.
A.A. Garthwaite Stadium has storied links with rugby football having hosted AMNRL and USARL National Championship Finals, as well as Rugby League nine’s tournaments that have included teams from Australia, New Zealand, and Jamaica.
The Tomahawks go into the Test against their archrivals trailing the three-game series 1-0 after Canada won the opener 36-20 on July 6 in Toronto.
The USA national team has a new domestic-based coach with Ben Kelly being appointed to replace the outgoing Marcus Vassilakopoulos, who has stepped down for personal reasons. Kelly, a former Tomahawk, hopes to emulate the contributions made by Coach Vassilakopoulos to the development of the national team.
New Tomahawks Coach Ben Kelly
“There was an opportunity to coach the team for the next two games against Canada. I jumped at the chance as I’m extremely passionate about the role.” said Kelly.
“I’ve picked a squad of 26 and that will be finalized into a squad of 17 on Monday. We expect the Canadians to come out firing and we’re prepping for that. It should be a great day of rugby league in Conshohocken and a great game against Canada.”
Kelly has been the Tomahawks’ strength and conditioning coach for the past couple of seasons and sees the move into a coaching role as a natural progression.
“I’m just excited about the opportunity and I’m very passionate about rugby league,” he said. “I started the Northern Raiders [AMNRL club] and to be able to help grow the game here in the States is something that I love to do.
“My heart and soul’s in rugby league, so to help coach the USA Tomahawks before the World Cup is a real honor. The goal is to get through our Group against the Cook Islands and Wales and possibly get to play a top team like Australia or England.”
“We need to get the best possible squad on the plane to England. The goal is to make sure the guys are in the best physical shape and that’s what I’m trying to facilitate. It’s a matter of putting together the domestic guys and getting them ready for the US team for the World Cup.”
The Tomahawks will be coached at RLWC2013 by Matt Elliott, head coach of the New Zealand Warriors in the NRL.
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