The draw will take place in Serbia on Friday evening 31st January at 7 pm (CET 8pm), for the expanded Men’s 2020 European Championships which, for the first time, will feature four levels of competition.
In the senior Championship, holders France, Scotland, Ireland and Wales will be joined by Italy, and for the first time Spain, with a final to be held, most likely, in France, 7th or 8th November. Also for the first time, relegation to European Championship B introduced. The nations will be drawn in two groups of three, culminating with the two group winners playing each other.
Dean Buchan, CEO, Rugby League Spain said: “It is genuinely exciting times for rugby league here. We have just seen the launch of our first professional club, Valencia Hurricanes, we have a new domestic league starting, and this international programme will keep that momentum growing. We proved in the recent World Cup qualifiers that we can compete, and I believe that we will be capable of causing a major upset in the competition”.
Tiziano Franchini, FIRL vice president added: “We are very proud to be involved in this prestigious and historic tournament. We will treat it with huge respect and use it to prepare for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England. We are delighted to be taking part.”
The draw, organised by the Red Star Sport Society Media Centre, will be broadcast by CKM Red on the RLEF Facebook page, and will be undertaken by the Serbian men’s and women’s national team captains, Stevan Stevanovic and Jelena Stojiljkovic.
Champions France and runners up Wales from the 2018 European Championship, will be top seeds in Pot 1 of the draw; Ireland and Scotland in Pot 2; Italy and Spain in Pot 3.
For European Championship B, the following fixtures have already been agreed: 17/18 October, Serbia v Russia; 24/25 October, Greece v Serbia; 31st Oct/1st Nov, Russia v Greece.
In European C there will be an open draw between Norway, Ukraine and Germany. In the inaugural European Championship D, an open draw will involve four nations: Netherlands, Czech Republic, and debutantes Turkey and Malta, with a final to be played in May/June 2022.
Rugby League European Federation general manager, Chris Thair, noted: “There is now a route for any nation to be crowned champions of Europe which will no doubt raise the aspirations of all 26 members based in Europe. The expansion of the Championships will both expose more nations to a higher level of competition and accelerate their development.
“Commercially, by including a Championship Final, the new format is more attractive to sponsors and broadcasters, which should further improve exposure and thence investment into international rugby league.”
The Men’s Rugby League European Championships is the highest tier of international competition in Europe. FStarted in 1935, it currently takes place every two years.
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP 2020 – Key Dates
17/18 October – Round 1
24/25 October – Round 2
31st Oct/ 1st Nov – Round 3
7th – 8th Nov – Final (Venue TBC)
There will also be a separate draw for the fixture format, with each nation playing a home and away game.
The two games over three weeks format allows all nations one blank weekend to arrange additional internationals, should they wish to do so.