Belgrade is preparing to host the third European Youth Championships, from 5-11 August, ten years after the last one took place in Prague. Eight nations will take part, with Ukraine – who played in a qualifier with Italy – replacing Russia, after the Bears were forced to pull out due to financial difficulties.
Russian president Denis Korolev commented: “This decision was very difficult and stressful for the ARLK and taken in consultation with the tournament organizers. It is as a result of us not being an official sport, recognised by the government here, since 2010. That has had a significant influence on state funding and potential sponsorship.”
“The participation of the Ukrainian team is a great chance for us, and a new important step for the development of rugby league in the nation,” said UKRL president Artur Martyrosyan.
The inaugural tournament was staged in France in 2006, the hosts winning the final in Barcares near Perpignan, sweeping aside England with a side that contained current Catalans Dragons, Mickael Simon and Vincent Duport.
Two years later, in Prague, and with the age level U18, Wales were triumphant, defeating France 38-24; Rhys Williams and Gil Dudson in their victorious line up, then England head coach Tony Smith the guest of honour and undertaking coaching clinics.
Tournament Director this time, Jovan Vujosevic noted: “This is an historic moment for the development of the rugby league in Europe. I was involved in both the previous youth tournaments and Tournament Director for the U16 European Championships in 2007 and 2009, and have seen the sport grow at youth level.
“It is a significant moment to see this level return and I anticipate it will be the start of new chapter in European rugby league history and that more nations will join in future. A greater number of youngsters than ever before are playing the sport across Europe and national governing bodies have recognised the need for this level of competition domestically, because these young players are the future.“
All the matches will played at the 4,000 capacity, Sports Center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Makiš situated eight km west of the city centre, near Lake Sava, in the district of Ada Ciganlija.
Opening fixtures – Sunday 5th August
Ukraine v Wales (kick off 15.30)
Ireland v Scotland
Serbia v England
France v Italy