By Brain Lowe, Date: 1/5/17
France has opted to roll the dice in the lead up to this year’s Rugby League World Cup by scheduling a warm-up game against Jamaica.
The match, to be played in Perpignan in October, will represent the first time that these two countries have faced one another.
From a Jamaican perspective, playing the French is seen as a stepping stone towards improving their international program.
“It will have a positive impact on the chemistry of our team,” said Jamaica Rugby League Association director of rugby Romeo Monteith.
“It’s not easy running our program with the small amount of resources at our disposal, however, players and volunteer staff have always remained positive about putting Jamaica out there.”
On paper at least, and based on Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) rankings, Les Chanticleers should start as favorites, although as anyone involved in the sport knows full well, favoritism often means nothing come game time.
France is ranked #6, while the Reggae Warriors are at #17, but that could have little, if any, bearing on the final outcome.
Last year, Jamaica toured the UK where they played Ireland and Wales and prior to those matches the Reggae Warriors were widely tipped to be lit up by their opponents, but that wasn’t how things played out.
The Jamaicans crushed the #8 ranked Irish 68-16, before playing out a 16-16 tie with #9 Wales.
Consequently, France would be well advised not to underestimate their opposition.
“France will be a tough opponent, we are under no illusions,” continued Monteith. “However, Glenn Morrison, Jermaine Coleman and Lee St Hilaire have proven to be a very capable management team. Getting results against Ireland and Wales last October demonstrates that.
“The players are passionate about the team and will give 100 per cent to ensure France has a competitive fixture before jetting off to their World Cup games.”
One assumes the French have added the hitout to their pre-RLWC schedule as an opportunity to work on their final player combinations and game plans as they get ready for Australia, England and Lebanon in the Group stages of the World Cup.
That won’t be an easy road for France, so every bit of meaningful preparation they can get is a plus.
However, if they lose the warm-up game to a lower ranked team, as they did to the USA in 2013, it could dent their World Cup campaign.
For the Jamaicans though, as outlined above, it’s more about playing as many Test matches as they can to help grow their international program and if they can take down a Top 10 ranked team along the way, well, so much the better for them.
“Jamaica takes its responsibility as a full member of the RLIF and RLEF seriously, therefore, playing regular internationals is a crucial part of our mandate in promoting the sport,” added Monteith.
“While international results are not crucial to the survival and growth of the domestic game, it certainly brings significant attention to what is happening on the island and also attention to our diaspora players in England.”
2017 RLWC Warm-up match
France v Jamaica – October 13, 2017 (Stade Gilbert Brutus, Perpignan)