The first-ever South American participants, Chile, have named their squad for the 2018 Americas Championship, which will also act as a qualifier for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England.
The University of North Florida, Jacksonville, will host two double-header rounds on 13th and 17th November 2018. In the opening fixtures Chile take on the hosts USA, with the winner facing either Jamaica or Canada.
The Chileans gained Affiliate status of the Rugby League International Federation earlier in 2018, and ‘Futbol a 13’ is starting to make rapid strides throughout the continent. The first domestic match was played in October 2016 in Negrete and last November, in Los Ángeles, Chile hosted the inaugural Latin American Rugby League Championship, defeating Argentina 32-12 in the final.
“We have five players from the Chilean domestic League in the squad,” commented Chile Rugby League president Guillermo Artiaga. “Piero Diaz would be our most accomplished player, he has been able to establish himself as one of the best front rowers in the region. Our youngsters, like Zecil Yao and Francisco Leiva, are the future for rugby league in Chile, and watch out for Thomas Garrido, he is very fast.”
Leiva, from the Los Ángeles League, captained Chile in the November 2017 Latin American tournament. “We are very proud to have been given the opportunity to take part in a Rugby League World Cup qualifier,” he said. “We will be making history and if we stick to our plan and work together, I believe we will give a good account of ourselves.”
Ferec Cavezas from the Antofagasta League, added: “We are conscious that this qualifier will be a very hard task for us, due to the quality of the opposition. However, the fact that we are the first Latin American team to compete means we need to be at our very best in order to make the Latin world proud. Our wish is for Chile to be recognized in this sport.”
Chile 21-man train-on squad : Jonathan Espinoza (Balmoral RLFC), Iziah Catrileo, Bradley Millar, Trent Millar (Brothers Mustangs RLFC), Thomas Garrido, James Horvat (Corrimal Cougars RLFC), Eugene Araya, Chris Brantes, Patrick Camaano, Mana Castillo-Sioni, Nick Doberer, Jaden Laing, Jose Nitor-Alvear, Brandon Tobar (Latin Heat RLFC), Francisco Leiva (Maquinarias RLFC), Piero Diaz (Mariman RLFC), Taylor Salas (Ngen Mapu RLFC), Ferec Cavezas (Rhinos RLFC), Junior Sandoval (Sunbury Tigers RLFC), Zecil Yao (Toros RLFC), Eddie Wegener (West Belconnen Warriors RLFC).