By Brian Lowe, Date: 2/6/13
France will host the USA Tomahawks in a Rugby League World Cup warm-up match.
The landmark game, which has been sanctioned by the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) and RLWC2013, will give both countries a final opportunity to tweak their World Cup squads ahead of the sportâ€™s showpiece event.
The match is scheduled to be played in Toulouse on October 18, and follows successful negotiations between Federation Francaise de Rugby a X111 and the American National Rugby League.
The contest will create history as it will mark the first time the USA and France have faced each other in a rugby league match. It will also be the Tomahawksâ€™ fourth international hit-out in as many months as they prepare to make their Rugby League World Cup debut.
The USA is scheduled to play the Colonial Cup series against Canada this summer. The opening game will be in Toronto, Ontario on July 6, the second match to be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 24, with the teams returning to Toronto on September 21 for the series finale.
At that point, the USA national team coaching staff will whittle down the Tomahawksâ€™ Elite Player Pool to the 24-man squad for RLWC2013.
For two players likely to be on the Tomahawksâ€™ roster, France will be a return to familiar territory.
Mark Cantoni and Mark Offerdahl have both played in the French Elite 1 League – Cantoni with Pia, while Offerdahl has been at Carcassonne for the past two seasons.
Offerdahl has been playing alongside many Frenchmen who have represented Les Chanticleers and heâ€™s expecting to see them again in their national team colours come October.
â€œI think they will be very competitive and a huge test for the Tomahawks,â€ said Offerdahl. â€œThe majority of their team are players from Super League with only a few from the domestic competition.â€
His sentiments are echoed by Cantoni, who expects the French to be a force in front of their home crowd.
â€œA former team mate of mine at Pia, Clement Soubreyas, has made his way into the French team and won the Grand Final this year,â€ Cantoni added. â€œI think the lead up match against the French will be vital to try and get some combinations going and prepare us for what to expect in the following pool games. Also it will be a great experience for the team and staff to play a Test match against France in France.â€
The French are currently ranked no.4 on the RLIF world rankings with the USA checking in at position ten, its highest ever ranking.