PHILADELPHIA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The American National Rugby League (AMNRL), the premier rugby league in the U.S. and home of the World Cup qualifying USA Tomahawks, announced plans today for a number of exciting Rugby League events as part of its “Road to the Rugby League World Cup” including national expansion as well as plans for a Champions League Challenge and a US Rugby League Sevens Championship.
In response to the successful qualification of the USA Tomahawks to the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, the AMNRL has announced a number of key initiatives to help support its strategic plan to grow the sport of Rugby League in the United States. Domestically, the AMNRL will launch teams and competitions around the country in the East, Midwest, Southwest, West, and Pacific regions. This expansion will include programs developed to grow the sport at collegiate, high school and youth levels.
The schedule of international events for the 2012 season will kickoff with a repeat of the St. Patrick’s celebration between the Tomahawks and Wolfhounds of Ireland in March with the annual Donnybrook Cup. The Tomahawks will also face Tonga and Japan before a proposed matchup against fellow World Cup Pool D opponent, the Cook Islands. The final two international events will include a historic visit by the Melbourne Storm, a premier club from the Australian NRL, and a first ever two-game tour of France.
On the road to the Rugby League World Cup, the AMNRL is working with local sponsors and broadcast partners to present two annual world class events that are in the final planning stages. A Hawaiian Challenge – The Shaka Cup – will be a fierce head-to-head exhibition match to be held on the famous island of Oahu in Hawaii that the AMNRL hopes will pit the USA Tomahawks against a champion Australian NRL club. A number of Australian NRL clubs have expressed serious interest in the opportunity, including actor Russell Crowe’s South Sydney Rabbitohs. Crowe’s Rabbitohs last visited the USA for the Australia Day Challenge match in Florida in 2008 in a similar event that featured a week-long training camp followed by an exhibition match with Super League Europe Champions, the Leeds Rhino’s.
“Following Russell’s (Crowe) vision for a Champions League tournament and introducing world class rugby into the United States, we’re striving to provide American rugby fans two great events to kick-off our plans as we gear up for the RLIF World Cup in 2013,” said AMNRL president David Niu. “The Shaka Cup will be a great match-up in an exotic venue, with the Tomahawks competing head-to-head against a top professional Rugby League club.”
The second and larger event being developed by the AMNRL is the U.S. Sevens Cup, featuring 16 international Rugby League Sevens teams playing 44 games over a 2-day period for prize money. The Rugby League Sevens U.S. Championship will bring the action and excitement of Rugby League Sevens to America with teams competing for the trophy and the title of Rugby League’s top Sevens team. Niu continued, “We feel there is a void for the short form game of Rugby League internationally and see Hawaii as an ideal location to interest top-level teams to participate and for corporate partners to support.”
Rugby League is the version of Rugby most similar to American football, has been gaining in popularity in the United States and is already the number one sport in many countries. Rugby League continues to make huge inroads all over the globe, and the 2013 RLIF World Cup qualifying matches attest to that.
“The end of 2011 was filled with exciting and competitive Rugby League action involving seven nations which has showcased the huge progress being made in international Rugby League worldwide,” said Richard Lewis, Chairman of the United Kingdom’s Rugby League governing body. “As we build towards the international event, the excitement level is on the rise. We believe that we have fourteen diverse and competitive teams that will make the 2013 World Cup truly memorable with each nation adding color and vibrancy that will put Rugby League in the global spotlight.”
According to Niu, “Final decisions regarding the two Hawaii tournaments are subject to securing a broadcast partner, an effort that will begin immediately now that plans are in place.” The National Rugby League Grand Final and State of Origin Series from Australia were aired live on Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Soccer Plus in 2011. Given the exciting response to these top level rugby events, plans are in development for the full NRL 2012 season, State of Origin Series, and NRL Playoffs and Grand Final to air on Fox platforms nationally in the new year.
For additional information, please visit www.AMNRL.com.
About American National Rugby League
The American National Rugby League (AMNRL) is the governing body for the development of the sport of Rugby League in the United States, as sanctioned by the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF). In existence since 1998, the AMNRL is the major Rugby League competition in the United States.