The wheelchair rugby league games were arguably some of the most entertaining at the recent World Cup, which saw the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments run alongside each other, the first tournament of it’s kind.
The decision to share the three tournaments and broadcast all games via either television or streaming platforms saw huge strides made for equality across our sport and consequently exposed more people to wheelchair or women’s rugby league than ever before.
England securing victory in the wheelchair tournament at their home World Cup solidified this new-found fandom and has put the sport on the map for many new fans and the Welsh Wheelchair Rugby League team are capitalising on this as they’re set to tour South America in September.
Wales made it to the semi-finals of the tournament in October and November but they’ll travel to Brazil in September to play a three-test series as they compete for the ‘Crusaders Cup’, named as such after North Wales Crusaders donated over 30 shirts to help develop the sport in Brazil.
Welsh Rugby League announced the news via the International Rugby League website and their statement read as such.
“Wales and Brazil are set to meet in an historic three-Test Wheelchair series in September, which will be played alongside the 2023 South American Championships.
“The World Cup semi-finalists were due to tour Brazil in February, however, following requests from the host nation, this has been pushed back until later in the year.
“The tour has been moved to coincide with the South American Championships, which will see Brazil men’s first and second team, youth and women play a series of fixtures against neighbouring nations, including Argentina and Paraguay.
“Wales will collaborate in a number of training sessions, including coach and match official education with the hosts, as well as some preparation of their own ahead of a three-game Test series with Brazil.”
The South American Championships will follow the trend of the World Cup in that multiple teams including the men’s, women’s and youth will all play at the same tournament, something that looks set to be a mainstay for tournament rugby league formats going forward.
Harry Jones, Welsh international and one of the men who organised the tour, said: “This is a huge opportunity, not only to boost the profile of each team and the sport, but to also showcase and highlight international collaboration.
“Though the tour has been moved, this is allowing both teams more time to prepare themselves, for Wales we have the Celtic Cup and the domestic season, whilst in Brazil, it allows them time to get their domestic competition up and running.
“By having the tour coincide with other events relating to the sport in the country, highlights that developing nations are still capable of hosting more than one international tournament simultaneously.
“Having the next World Cup feature men’s, women’s, wheelchair and youth for the first time, this tour is the perfect opportunity to show that teams outside of the tier 1 and 2 nations are capable and have the amenities to host events of this size.”
Another huge step in the development of what looks set to be one of the fastest growing sports not just nationwide, but potentially worldwide.