The 2019 men’s Rugby League 2020 European U19 Championship, due to be held at Lignano Sabbiadoro in Italy from 3-13 September, has been postponed until 2021.
The tournament will now be an U20 competition and will take place a year later at the same venue and involving the original eight nations: England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Serbia, Ukraine and Wales.
The decision was made following a board meeting convened earlier this week when the Rugby League European Federation were reluctantly forced to postpone the event due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Wales U19 head coach Anthony Walker, who is expected to return to playing himself in the near future, said: “Whilst we’re disappointed not to be playing in the tournament this year, we all understand that health and safety comes first.
“It’s massively important that for 2021 only that the competition is now U20 and not U19. It means that the lads who have trained for this will still be able to compete next year. We finished third in this tournament two years’ ago and I know that we’ll be striving to go even further when we do go to Italy in 2021.”
RLEF chair, Maurice Watkins CBE, commented: “COVID-19 is challenging all aspects of our lives, including sport. After consultation with our members, we have made decisions that are the right ones under the exceptional circumstances. I would like to thank the Italian Federation for their adaptability and understanding; it is testament to their dedication and commitment.”
Watkins added: “It is important that the event is U20 next year, as we do not want a group of players to miss out on the opportunity to represent their country which is such a source of great pride. Where we can we want to continue to provide regularity and continued incentive.”
The board had undertaken consultation with all the nations involved before making and communicating its decisions. Key concerns discussed were; safety of young players and staff, significantly reduced preparation time on and off the field including raising finance, and potential international travel restrictions.
“We are in a time of great difficulty, and safeguarding the health of all who play rugby league has always been our priority,” said FIRL president Orazio D’Arrò. “We unhesitatingly support the postponement, it was a clear choice despite the arrangements already in place.
“This is an intelligent and forward-looking move by the RL European Federation, it allows us all to continue preparing and recognises the work done by the athletes. I am sure we will get out of this terrible situation and that in 2021 there will be a lot of rugby league to enjoy.”
Initial consultation was also entered in to with regards to the men’s European A, B, C and D Championships, due to be played in October and November 2020. At this stage, the RLEF board has decided not to make a final decision on their status.
They will continue to consult with public health bodies, nations and also the Rugby Football League, National Rugby League and International Rugby League in respect of the professional club scenario going forward.