Photo Credit: Allene Rachal
Rugby League authorities in Chile are not letting the global pandemic completely sideline their plans for 2020 and beyond.
While COVID-19 has had a direct impact on the game in Chile with all forms of physical activity in the South American country being suspended, the national governing body, Rugby Football League Chile 13 (Rfl13Chile), is using the pandemic to streamline domestic competitions and to look for opportunities to further advance the game by introducing it to more regions across the country.
“We have been engaging with players and provide regular updates via social media,” national team head coach Rod Millar told Rugby League Planet.
“There was an opportunity to play an international in Australia later in October, however, this will depend on government regulations. We have engagements with governing bodies in regards to training and playing venues and we are looking at opportunities to expand the league to Indigenous regions.”
Most national team players who are on the Weichafes’ roster have signed up with local clubs as they endeavour to keep their fitness levels up.
“Domestically it has been difficult, as it is still not allowed to gather in groups to train, however, players are aware of the necessity to maintain fitness levels to the best of their abilities,” said Millar. “To date there has been over 393,000 cases of COVID-19 with an excess of 10,000 deaths.”
Despite the setbacks they have experienced this year due to the coronavirus, Rfl13Chile is also looking ahead to 2021 and has been formulating innovative strategies to continue to grow the game domestically.
Two regions will host domestic leagues – the Northern Region and the Bio-Bio Region in central Chile. There will be a focus on male, female and school-based competitions, plus the national governing body wants to expand Chile’s inter-regions competition.
As for the national team’s progress, the last time the Weichafes saw any game time was at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup Americas region qualifying series in the US in late 2018.
Millar says depending on what transpires in the next 12 months in relation to COVID-19, there are high hopes that the team will hit the field again in 2021.
“Rfl13Chile is looking forward to the Americas 9s, the postponed Americas Championship from 2020 and two more internationals,” he added.
“There’s also a potential tour of Chile with a 50/50 mix of domestic and heritage players.”
The Rugby League European Federation (RLEF) announced in June the postponement of the 2020 Americas Championship. It had been due to be played in November in Kingston, Jamaica, for the first time, also featuring the USA, Canada and Chile.
“The board has concluded that the rescheduled tournament should take place in early May 2021 and coincide with the Americas 9s,” RLEF chair Maurice Watkins, CBE, said at the time.
“In addition, Jamaica, who will play in the 2021 Rugby League World for the first time, will be given first option to host the 2022 competition. Our first priority has to be the health of all concerned.”
A final decision has yet to be made on where next year’s Americas Championship and Americas 9s will be played.
Chile is currently ranked #32 in the world.