Wales full members of Rugby League International Federation

Wales have become the 12th full member of the Rugby League International Federation following a meeting of the Federation board in Melbourne on Thursday.

They were also granted automatic qualification to the 2013 World Cup which will take place in the United Kingdom.

Previously, full international membership has gone to Great Britain but since the start of 2008, when the Great Britain side was permanently split into four nations for full test international purposes, that spot was given to England.

Now this week, Wales, who were the first country in the world to host a rugby league international when they beat New Zealand 9-8 in Aberdare on January 1st 1908, have taken their rightful place as a full member of the Federation.

“I’m very pleased with the outcome,” said Wales Rugby League’s Executive Chairman Mark Rowley, who attended the Australian-based meeting. “This is a momentous day for Wales Rugby League.

“We achieved autonomous status in 2006 which was our first major step up the international rugby league ladder. We were then officially recognised by the Sports Council of Wales later that year, but today we are in the major hierarchy of our own sport.

“Rugby league in Wales continues to grow. We have two professional sides for the first time in almost 100 years in Crusaders and South Wales Scorpions, with the Scorpions fielding 99% Welsh-born players. Our Conference season in the south kicks off this Sunday in Nelson with a Nines tournament and 13 teams will be taking to the field this season. We are soon launching a local league in North Wales for the very first time, while we now have over 150 school teams in Wales.

“Internationally, we are European Champions in Rugby League at both senior level and under 18 level. We are the Home Nations champions at A international and student level, while our students reached the semi-finals of their last World Cup.

“We are now heading towards the 2013 Rugby League World Cup in full confidence, but our next aim is to qualify for the 2011 Four Nations and we take on Ireland, Scotland and France for that right this autumn.

“It’s more exciting than ever to be part of rugby league in Wales right now. I’d like to thank everyone who has helped to get us to this position, the head coaches, club coaches, community coaches, backroom staff members and the many volunteers that we have in our game in Wales right now.”