On the 19th of May, Ukraine U19s will cross the north-east Italian border to Fogliano di Repuglia, to play a qualification match for the right to be the eighth side in the 2018 U19 European Championships, to be staged in Belgrade this August.
It will be the first time that either of these two nations has participated in a Rugby League youth competition, and the first-ever qualification match in Europe at this level.
To enable a selection process for their train-on squad, the Federazione Italiana Rugby League established a series of camps, and as a result the squad has already played against a Var region (adult) selection in Toulon, with the U19 Azzurrini losing 20-6. They are also discussing the possibility of playing Serbia U19s at home, a week before the Ukrainian clash.
“We really want to qualify for the full European championship,” commented coach of the Italy U19’s, Salvatore Pezzano.
“We are working hard to prepare the boys in the best possible way in order to make the most of this opportunity. We are committed to working with the next generation to further progress and solidify the foundations of the sport here.”
Ukraine U19s coach, Viktor Melnychuk’s preparations begin on Sunday, with the first of his planned training camps. His initially selected 30 players will ultimately be reduced to 18 who will travel to Italy.
“This is a very important step for the development of rugby league in our country,” said Melnychuk. “We are very positive that we can get a result.”