The RLEF has introduced European Championship branding to its three-tiers of official competition, aligning the organisation with the majority of European sports. The European Cup will now be known as the European Championship, while the Shield and Bowl are replaced by European Championship B and European Championship C. The latter two competitions are already linked and the RLEF is planning for all competitions to have a connecting relationship of some degree, pending confirmation of the Rugby League International Federation’s multi-year calendar.
The RLEF undertook an organisation-wide consultation in 2013, including a workshop conducted by Director Graeme Thompson in London in August, during which the new proposals were debated by the attending member nations. Although negotiations continue surrounding the European Championship - the notional winner of which will join Australia, England and New Zealand in the 2016 Four Nations - fixtures for Euro B have been finalised, with Euro C close to agreement.
In Euro B, which is played over two years, promoted Ukraine kick off in Belgrade in mid-May against Serbia, a week before hosting champions Russia in Kharkov. Ukraine has never beaten either country but is one of the fastest improving nations in Europe. World Cup qualifiers Italy, who won all three of their matches in the 2013 Shield to finish second on points difference, enter the competition in July.
In Euro C, Norway has been replaced by Malta, while Greece is promoted to take the place of Ukraine. Malta and Greece will kick off the tournament in June, while the Czech Republic will make a first visit to Greece in October to complete the triangular series.
European Championship B 2014-15 – Phase 1
SERBIA V UKRAINE - 17 May, Belgrade
UKRAINE V RUSSIA - 24 May, Kharkov
RUSSSIA V SERBIA - 21 June, Naro Fominsk
UKRAINE V ITALY 5 - July, Kharkov
ITALY V RUSSIA 26 - July, Gemona
SERBIA V ITALY 20 - September, Belgrade