The full schedule of matches for the European Championship Rounds 1, 2, and 3, to be played in October / November 2015 was published on Sunday morning.
SCOTLAND will open their defence of the title when they face Wales in a match to be held at Wrexham. In Round Two, to be staged the following week, Steve McCormack’s men will take on Ireland at Galashiels in the beautiful Scottish Borders, while their Round Three meeting with the France is scheduled a week later, at Avignon.
Last season’s competition was one of the closest staged, with the Bravehearts winning their first ever silverware by taking the title on a points difference of less than a try, over France, and Ireland also registering two wins out of three. The Scotland captain, Danny Brough was also honoured, being named player of the tournament.
A further reward was on offer for winning the title last year, namely qualification for the 2016 Four Nations against England, Australia and New Zealand, and preparations for that are also on Steve McCormack’s agenda.
“Places in the Four Nations squad are also up for grabs,” said McCormack. “A lot of players performed superbly well last year, and they now have a chance to prove they deserve a place against the best in the world. There will be some serious competition for places, including from players who were injured last year and those who have come on a lot this season.”
IRELAND were desperately unfortunate to miss out last year – inches away from what would have been a clinching try as the final whistle blew against Wales.
Coach Mark Aston can’t wait for the opportunity to try and redress the balance. “The excitement around the Ireland squad for the 2015 European Championship is growing,” he said. “Our senior players are already speaking about building on the successful 2014 tournament, in which we went very close to winning.”
“When you talk about every minute mattering, that was certainly the case last year. We could have won on the last play of the final game.
“We had great wins against both France and Wales and that gives us something to build on, plus there are encouraging developments taking place in the domestic game in Ireland which should give us a bigger pool to select from.”
FRANCE coach, Richard Agar claims his side have great incentive for the autumn series.
“A lot of the senior guys who didn’t play for us last year have some regrets about what could have been,” commented Agar. We came so close to winning the Championship, and that would have seen us qualify for the 2016 Four Nations.
“Our guys now have a point to prove, especially looking towards the next World Cup in 2017. We’ve lost Gregory Mounis and Olivier Elima to retirement of course, but we still think there is the basis of a squad coming together to take us through, starting here and now with `the Euros’.
“More players are looking for different experiences outside France now, which is healthy for the game and the national side.”
WALES may be in a rebuilding phase but for their head coach, John Kear, there is much to look forward to as they prepare to open the competition, at home to the defending champions.
“We hope to progress from last year,” said Kear; we are looking to qualify for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. We have built some solid foundations and created a great atmosphere in the Welsh camp. For this year’s tournament we are hoping to have a more representative squad, while also keeping some of the top performers from 2014.
“We are delighted to be returning to Wrexham, and our Round Two tie is to be the first international staged at Cardiff Arms Park for almost 20 years. That is something I’m sure everyone will be looking forward to.”
FULL SCHEDULE ; EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS 2015
– October 16
WALES v SCOTLAND, Wrexham, 20.00
– October 17
FRANCE v IRELAND, Albi, 15.30
– October 23
SCOTLAND v IRELAND, Galashiels, 19.30
– October 31
WALES v FRANCE, Cardiff, 13.30
– November 7
FRANCE v SCOTLAND, Avignon, 15.30
IRELAND v WALES, Bray, 17.00