Vrchlabi, home of the Mad Squirrels club, will be a hot-bed of rugby league from tomorrow (Thursday) when a week of development work featuring five countries commences.
RLEF Coaching Manager, Martin Crick, will oversee the first phase of a coach tutor course for the Czech Republic hosts, Malta and Sweden, as part of the EU Leadership Devolution Project.
Then, on Sunday, the Latvian U18 team will arrive in the town ahead of two matches against the Czechs in a first for Latvian rugby league, which has never fielded a youth side at representative level.
The Latvians will be supported by consultant Steve Leonard, the head of St Helens’ youth development department, and an increasingly impressed observer of the Latvian federation. Two weeks ago Leonard spent a few days in Riga observing a number of camps organised by the LRL.
“I was really impressed with the set-up of rugby league in Latvia and with the talent on show, especially within the U18 group,” commented Leonard, who flies to Prague on Friday to observe the Czech association delivering their Level 1 course.
“It is only with quality time together that squads bond and improve, and opportunities like the trip to the Czech Republic are immeasurable in this process. I believe that the games will be a great bench mark for future development in the Latvian plan, but the lessons learned and the experience will be the legacy of their time in Vrchlabi.”
One of those who has received mentoring and training, Czech coach David Lahr, has been sidelined with a knee injury sustained at the Pardubice 9s a week ago and will pass over the U18s’ reins to Darek Blatak and team manager Tomas Douda.
CZRLA development manager Andy Mulhall is keen to see what both sides have to offer.
“Some very talented [Czech] players who are already on the verge of senior national team selection will be playing,” he said
“Despite the fact that the vast majority of the Czech youth team are rookies to the sport, all are looking forward to testing themselves against players from other nations.”
Three Maltese, three Swedish and two new Czech coach tutor trainees will all attend the four-day seminar, with the Swedish contingent staying to observe the first Czech v Latvia youth match on Monday 4 August.