Wales Rugby League will be going back to North America next year when the Wheelchair international side will play two tests against the USA.
Wales will take on their hosts at Myrtle Beach Sports Center in South Carolina on Friday, February 2 (kick-off 7pm local time) and Saturday, February 3 (3pm) in what will be the first two Wheelchair Rugby League matches ever to be played in the Americas. The encounters will officially be the main event at the inaugural “The Beers of America – Craft Beer & Adaptive Sports Festival” in conjunction with Visit Myrtle Beach Tourism and are the first two rugby league international matches planned for 2024.
It will be only the third time that Wales Rugby League has ever been to North America to play international matches. Wales men played two matches against USA in Philadelphia in 1995 and earlier this year, Wales Masters (men aged 35 and over) played in a festival in Toronto.
Wales and USA met in last year’s Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup where Wales won a competitive encounter, in what was USA’s debut in the sport. The two nations also previously met in running rugby league in the 2013 men’s World Cup and the 1996 Student World Cup.
The squads will also attend development clinics and domestic exhibition games leading up to the international matches, and Wales Wheelchair head coach Alan Caron is delighted that his Welsh squad will be doing more than just playing the games.
He said: “We played them at the World Cup, they looked very dominant for periods and we came back and won, so they’ll be looking for a bit of blood.
“We’re looking to help develop the game in the USA, that’s the main thing, making sure both teams come together with co-training programmes, then playing the internationals. It’s going to be a tour not just about winning the games that we play, but it’s all about the development side of the game, making sure that they’ve got things in place so they can grow the game of Wheelchair Rugby League.”
Stephen Jones, the head of Wheelchair Rugby League in Wales said: “The Wales Wheelchair team are looking forward to this ground-breaking tour to the USA. Not only will we be playing two tough games against them. We are also looking to help develop their Match officials and help out with some joint coaching sessions. For us though it also gives us the opportunity to meet up with the players and staff who were at last year’s World Cup and renew the friendships we made when we shared a hotel (and their sponsor’s fine beer) with the USA team in Sheffield.”
USA head coach Geoff Mason can’t wait to host the Welsh. He said: “USA WhRL looks forward to matching ourselves against the internationally third-ranked, Wales Wheelchair RL. As pool opponents in the last Rugby League World Cup, we had a tremendous battle with them and anticipate another memorable clash.”
Jasmine Townsend, the newly appointed USA team manager, who was present for at last year’s World Cup, adds: “We are excited to have a rematch against Wales Wheelchair RL in Myrtle Beach this winter. It will be a challenge playing the third-ranked team again; but one that we are looking forward to.”
The third round of the WRL Wheelchair Invitational League takes place this Saturday when Torfaen Tigers face Cardiff Blue Dragons and North Wales Crusaders take on Argonauts in a double-header of action at Cwmbran Stadium. It all kicks off at 11.15am and more information about the competition can be found at http://rugbyleague.cymru/wheelchair-league-table.