On 19 May, Ukraine U19s will cross the north-east Italian border to Fogliano di Repuglia to play a qualification match for right to be the eighth side in the 2018 U19 European Championships, which will be staged in Belgrade this August.
It will be the first time both nations have participated in youth competition and the first-ever qualification match at this age level in Europe.
The Federazione Italiana Rugby League established a series of camps to enable them to select a train-on squad who have already played against a Var regional selection in Toulon, the Azzurrini losing 20-6. FIRL is also discussing the possibility of playing Serbia U19 at home a week before the Ukrainian clash.
“We really want to qualify for the full European championship,” commented Salvatore Pezzano, coach of Italy U19. “We are working hard to prepare the boys in the best possible way, to make the most of this opportunity. We are committed to working with the next generation to further progress and solidify the foundations of the sport here.”
Ukraine U19 coach Viktor Melnychuk’s preparations begin on Sunday with the first of his planned training camps. He has initially selected 30 players, which will be reduced to the 18 who will travel to Italy. “It’s a very important step for the development of rugby league in our country,” he said. “We are very positive that we can get a result.”