Further details have emerged about November’s South American Rugby League Championships – with Venezuela submitting a surprise entry to the tournament undercard.
The championships in Jericó, Colombia, are set to run over three days between November 25-27, 2022, with Chile, Brasil and Colombia competing at the top-flight level.
However, as many as seven Latin American countries could have representatives at what has grown to become a festival of rugby league.
“As the host nation, Colombia has organised a series of parallel events featuring nine-a-side teams as curtain-raisers to the IRL-recognised fixtures,” Asia Pacific Rugby League territory manager Robert Burgin said.
“One of the entrants we are particularly excited about is from the Metropolitan University of Caracas in Venezuela.
“Venezuela obviously has experienced some socio-political challenges in recent times, but the signs that they are ready to emerge as a rugby league force have been there for a while.
“We’ve seen Venezuelans perform well in the USARL, we’ve seen them perform well in lower levels in Australia, and I know there were close to 10 Venezuelan-born players in Brasil Rugby League the past few seasons.
“The area where rugby league is currently most popular in Colombia, Santa Marta on the Caribbean coastline, is only 200km from the Venezuelan border.
“We’ve already discussed pathways to correct IRL affiliation and it will just be a matter of getting the right people in the right positions to make it happen.”
Further pleasing news is that previously IRL-affiliated Argentina will be sending four delegates to the South American Championships to undergo a Match Officials Educator course.
Argentina is rejuvenated after several years in the wilderness and has been back training and signalling their intention to submit documentation for reaffiliation.
Though now technically termed a ‘North American’ country by IRL boundaries, El Salvador will also send four delegates for the match officials course in Colombia, taking advantage of instruction conducted in Spanish.
“While the South American Championships is a pathway to the next stage of 2025 World Cup qualification, we’ve always wanted it to be more about the sport’s long-term growth,” Burgin said.
“Chile and Brasil are best poised to advance to the 2023 America Cup where they will face host Jamaica, the USA and Canada, but the excitement is matched with what will occur in other nations.
“Ecuador, who were also previously IRL-affiliated, want to send a domestic representative to the match officials course. Representatives from Uruguay Rugby League have recently been active in Montevideo gathering support for greater domestic activity there.
“Colombia is reporting an increased number of domestic games and training sessions this year now that they are hosting the championships, and their volunteer numbers are growing in unison.
“Mexico Rugby League has indicated they will restart competitions, we’ve seen grassroots development in Nicaragua and Honduras for a couple of years, and I’m sure Peru will be another nation we will hear more about soon.”
Aside from the Venezuelan university team, as many as four domestic Colombian teams will contest the parallel nines competition, with two female Colombian teams to also contest a nines series.
SOUTH AMERICAN CHAMPIONSHIPS
Estadio JB Londoño
November 25-27, 2022
Day 1: Chile v Brasil (direct Americas Cup 2023 qualifier)
Day 2: Colombia v Loser Day 1
Day 3: Colombia v Winner