The International Season Is Here!

By Daniel Andruczyk

Who said that Rugby League is not an international sport! The second half of the rugby league international calendar kicked off last Saturday, 10th October, in Sydney with the Australian Mediterranean Cup (AMC). This tournament involved 4 teams, Italy A (the proper Italian team is involved in another tournament), Greece, Malta and Portugal. The first round saw the Greeks and Italians have strong wins and on the weekend the final played with the Greeks defeating the Italians 32-10.

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Malta vs. Italy A and Greece vs. Portugal in the opening round of the AMC at Marconi Stadium. Photos: Daniel Andruczyk

Last week I also saw the Cook Islander and Samoan teams off from Sydney airport as they went to fight for the right to play in the Pacific Nations Cup (PNC). The Samoans were going in as hot favourites with stars bristling in the line up, while the Cook Islanders were predominantly NYC players… and wasn’t there a shock. Probably the shock of the year next to the Czechs beating the Germans, the Cook Islanders won in a tight contest 22-20 and are on their way to Port Moresby where they will take on Fiji in their first match.

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The Samoan and Cook Island teams at Sydney Airport before jetting off to Cairns for their PNC qualifier. Photos: Daniel Andruczyk

The third major international tournament that started on the weekend was the rugbyleague.com European Nations Cup (ENC). This is a six team event with two groups of three. Scotland, Italy and Lebanon in one group and Wales, Serbia and Ireland in the other. The two opening matches saw the two least experienced teams pitted against probably the two most experienced. Scotland put a 104-00 score line on the Italians in Padua while in Tullamore Ireland ran away 82-00 winners on the Serbians. It must be said though despite the score lines both the Italians and Serbians showed great heart and class to run out and give it their all. The Italians were late inclusions when the Russians pulled out last month and Tizziano Franchin did well to organise everything.

Offcourse next weekend the Four Nations (4N) starts with Australia taking on the World Champions New Zealand at London’s Twickenham Stoop, home of the Harlequins Rugby League club, England takes on France at Doncaster’s Keepmoat stadium. Most are rating the Aussies and Kiwis to be the runaway teams for this tournament, to maintain the southern Hemisphere dominance, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the French and English will have a trick or two to surprise the antipodeans… well we know one already, France have ex – St. George and  current Catalans Dragons player Clint Greenshields playing for them. Clint qualifies through residency, but it seems he is committed to the French cause with rumours he is wanting to take out French residency. I think everyone knows Clint’s abilities and he has had a great season in the ESL this year.

Three warm up matches have also been played, New Zealand played Tonga in what was an outstanding match in Rotorua. They won 40-24. New Zealand Residents, that is the local boys, played a Samoan Residents team drawn from the Samoan domestic comp. This was used to fund raise money for the victims of the Tsunami in Samoa the other week. New Zealand A 52 defeated Samoa A 14. Wales also put on a valiant effort against the English at the Celtic Crusaders home ground in Bridgend. Unlike last years 70 point drubbing, this year the Welsh lads only went down 42-12, showing that having inspirational Welsh international and crowd favourite Iestyn Harris as Coach could do the trick. This was a warm up for the ENC and 4N for the teams respectively and I would say along with the Irish and Scots the Welsh have to be up there as the favourite.

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Elliot Kear (Wales) and Adrian Morely (England) in action in their warm up international at Bridgend. Photos: http://www.ianlovell.com

But despite all this there is one more tournament that is to be played and for me this is one of the most exciting ones, the Atlantic Nations Cup (ANC). The United States will take on the Jamaicans at Jacksonville on November 10. This will be Jamaica’s first full blown international game, Romeo Moonlith and Calvert Roy are really excited about the prospect and are working diligently to get the best team up there. This tournament hopefully will expand in the near future to include the South Africans and Japanese who are crying out for more internationals.

I will have a full wrap up of this years results later in the year, probably just before Christmas of all the international tournaments and also have some of the upcoming internationals for next year. You can also visit http://www.rugbyleagueinternationalscores.com to get all the latest domestic and international results.

Just a final note, I’d like to say a big thanks from Steve Mascord who has one of the most enviable jobs in the world jetting around the world to watch international rugby league. He mentioned me in his blog and so return the favour. I met Steve finally at Bossley Park in Sydney last week and a fine fellow he is. We exchanged stories of places we have seen the greatest game played, Steve I hope Tizziano didn’t disappoint with the catering in Padua.

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