Germany will play Spain for the first time on Saturday in a match that will welcome the arrival of a new national governing body and see Super League representation in the shape of Leeds star Jimmy Keinhorst.
Nationaler Rugby League Deutschland was formally recognised earlier in the week as the governing body in Germany, a move which has generated renewed vigour in a country that has been involved in rugby league since 2005 without ever really fulfilling its enormous potential. A national team victory will further increase NRLD’s enthusiasm, but co-head coach Simon Cooper is under no illusion it will be easy against one of international rugby league’s form sides.
“We are in a rebuilding phase in Germany, both on and off the field after a difficult period,” admits Cooper. “We have a young, inexperienced squad that is missing the likes of Bene Rehm, Christoph Huber, Max Schöngen and others due to various reasons, but the coaching team have been very impressed with the commitment of the squad this year.”
Spain, which defeated Latvia last month to break into the first rung of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup qualifiers later this year, remains unbeaten in its three matches, two of which were away from home, and coach Darren Fisher is looking forward to a new opponent to test his relatively new crop of rugby league players.
“The Germany game will be another great test match for us,” said the Yorkshireman, who assembles a squad representing nine clubs. “We know the Germany side will be confident and it’s something we will aim to match. We have a couple of sessions before the game and we will be aiming to build on our last performance against Latvia. We must keep raising the level of our performances in the build up to European Championship C and I’m sure the challenge of our visitors this weekend will provide that for us. Our main focus will be to compete and start to really focus on completing our sets. It’s very exciting that these types of games are happening and it helps loads in our development.”
Cooper thinks that his side, which include Leeds Rhinos back Jimmy Keinhorst, will have no excuses for a below par performance: “It is probably the best prepared the side has ever been, due to a couple of training weekends and a number of the players being involved in technical courses that have been run this year by the RLEF. Spain is going to be a tough match for us and will help us see where we are and what we need to do, to help all our players in Germany improve.
“Our focus is very much on the development of our players rather than results this year. It will also be the last game for our captain, Kristian Keinhorst. The Keinhorst Family has been great servants of the game in Germany and has played a big part in our development, not just on the field, but also off it.“
Captain Kristian Keinhorst played in Germany’s first international match, in 2007 against Serbia, and has missed only two matches since. On Saturday he will win his 17th cap.
Germany next face Netherlands in Gnarrenburg on 20 June, while Spain plays Italy B in Alicante next Saturday.
SPAIN 22-MAN SQUAD
Hector D’Alessandro (Alcoià Comtat), Alejandro Gordon, Diego Lagunas, Hadriel Mego, Gonzalo Morro, Ezequiel Pérez-Fuster (Ciencias XIII Valencia), Hugo García, Iago Vázquez (Custodians Madrid), Ivan Ordaz (Eastmoor Dragons), Matt Dulley, Oli Giroguy, Juan Pablo Rango (Irreductibles Mislata), Alex Doutres (Palau XIII), Aitor Dàvila, Raul Simo (Tigres Torrent), Adrian Alonso, Carlos Aragones, Christian Domínguez, Joaquin Fraile, Andrew Pilkinton, Luis Thorp (Valencian Warriors), Daniel Garcia (Woolston Rovers)
GERMANY 20-MAN SQUAD
Karsten Brüning, Simon Cooper, Mitchell Evers, Jannek Hagenah, Marco Kühne, Sebastian Peter (Karlshöfen), Mawuli Amefia, Matej Beslic, Sebastian Roczyn (Karlsruhe), Ben Behr-Heyder, Felix Buhla, Liam Doughton, Arne Falk, Fabrice Fehlemann, Vivien Seelweger, Marc Zupan (NRW Broncos), Andrew Hoggins (Oxford RLFC), Kristian Keinhorst, Nick Keinhorst (Leeds Akkies), Jimmy Keinhorst (Leeds Rhinos)