Despite the efforts from Grand Final stars from Leeds Rhinos and Wigan Warriors, last night France gained revenge for their defeat in last year’s Wheelchair World Cup Final to deny England a clean sweep as the 2023 Rugby League season ended with an international triple header in Leeds.
After almost 12 months stewing over the disappointment of their dramatic 28-24 defeat by England at Manchester Central, the founders of Wheelchair Rugby League returned to the other side of the Pennines and made their point to a noisy crowd of 2,311 at the first direct Arena, with Jeremy Bourson named player of the match for scoring three of their tries in a 43-34 win.
This attendance is truly impressive and marks a landmark moment for the sport of Wheelchair rugby as James Simpson expressed on BBC on Saturday about dreaming of taking a game to the First Direct Arena.
The attendance is comparable with some of the biggest clubs in the Championship as well as some of the lower attendances recorded in Super League. It is four times as many as the record lowest attendance in Super League history recorded in 1996.
Hopefully soon we will be able to see it creep towards the higher end of attendances and push for five figures.
After the game, France were presented with the Fassolette-Kielty Trophy, which is awarded to the winners of every France-England fixture in tribute to Robert Fassolette and Malcolm Kielty MBE, the two key figures in establishing Wheelchair Rugby League on either side of the Channel.
But England will have the chance to regain the Trophy in three weeks, as the teams meet again at the Palais des Sports in Marseille on November 25.
Simon Johnson, the Chair of the Rugby Football League and a Board member of International Rugby League, said:
“It has been another landmark moment for Wheelchair Rugby League, to crown an excellent weekend of international Rugby League in Leeds.
“The sport had a challenge following the World Cup last autumn, to ensure the momentum of staging those three tournaments concurrently was not lost.
“We were therefore delighted to be able to host five England internationals, with a three-Test Men’s series against Tonga, the third of which was staged at Headingley as one of three internationals in the space of 24 hours in Leeds.”