Wales are to be a seeded side in the main European Qualifying Tournament for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup when the draw is made on November 5th this year, exactly 12 months before the final berth is decided.
The Tournament, which will be played in autumn 2016, will consist of six sides, split into two groups of three with each nation playing one home and one away game.
Ireland are the other seeded side, so will not face Wales in a group, while the four other teams will be determined this year via the European Championship B and C competitions.
The winners of each group will qualify automatically while the second placed finishers will play off for the third and final European berth at Leigh Sports Village on November 5th 2016.
The composition of the two groups will be decided using three live draws based on seniority of competition to maintain balanced groups. One team from each pot will be in Group 1 and one will be in Group 2.
Pot 1: Wales and Ireland (seeds 1 and 2).
Pot 2: First and second placed finishers in 2014-15 European Championship B (seeds 3 and 4).
Pot 3: Third placed finisher in 2014-15 European Championship B and winner of 2015 European Championship C (seeds 5 and 6).
The European Championship B competition is at its halfway stage with Serbia, Russia and Italy each with two wins from three games. Ukraine prop up the table having lost all three of their games so far. All teams have faced each other once with the return games taking place this year.
European Championship C will be a three team competition between Greece, Malta and the winner of an upcoming qualifying game between Latvia and Spain in Riga on May 9.
Chris Thair, Wales Rugby League’s chief operating officer, said: “There is real positivity emanating from Wales Rugby League at the moment. We blooded a lot of young welsh talent in the 2014 European Championships.
“The format to the World Cup qualifying matches in 2016 looks really exciting and will add further value to renewing our annual battles against Ireland, Scotland and France later this year in the European Championships. It is a fabulous time to be involved.”
Wales coach John Kear added: “It is with great excitement that I look forward to the upcoming three years of international rugby league. We are all excited and invigorated by the challenges that World Cup qualification involves.”
The matches will be played between October 15th and November 5th 2016.
2017 RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD CUP
FULL EUROPEAN QUALIFYING FIXTURES
European Championship C – 2015 fixtures
9 May – Latvia v Spain – Riga
26 Sep – Latvia/Spain v Greece – TBD
10 Oct – Malta v Greece – Marsa
17 Oct – Greece v Latvia/Spain – Athens
European Championship B – 2015 fixtures
16 May – Serbia v Russia – Belgrade
20 June – Italy v Serbia – Gemona
27 June – Ukraine v Russia *
18 July – Ukraine v Italy – Kiev
12 Sept – Ukraine v Serbia – Uzhgorod / Russia v Italy – Moscow
2016 European Qualifying Tournament
Round 1: 15/16 Oct 16
A v B (Group 1) A v B (Group 2)
Round 2: 22/23 Oct 16
B v C (Group 1) B v C (Group 2)
Round 3: 29/30 Oct 16
C v A (Group 1) C v A (Group 2)
Final qualifier: 5 Nov 16
Second place teams play off for final berth – Leigh Sports Village
*Due to the ongoing political tensions between Russia and Ukraine and Ukrainian legislation limiting the freedom of movement of males aged 18-60, the Ukraine v Russia match has a provisional date. The Rugby League European Federation will monitor the situation and consider appropriate actions.