Date: 21/12/15
Wales Rugby League chairman Brian Juliff has praised the whole of the organisation for their successes in 2015, which has culminated in a one place rise in the official Rugby League International Federation World Rankings after their European Championship trophy win.
Wales beat Ireland, France and Scotland in fantastic fashion in their year’s European Championship, scoring 11 tries over their three games and conceding just four.
They won the competition using just 19 players, with Wales coach John Kear naming the same starting 13 all tournament and the same 17 in the final two games
Out of those players, 12 were Welsh born and an additional two came through the development systems in Wales.
“John has completely overhauled our squad and effectively re-energised everything we are doing at this level,” Juliff said. “The players have responded magnificently and everyone in the 2015 squad to take the field played with unsurpassed passion and commitment.
“As a result of this balanced approach we can look forward to our World Cup 2017 qualifying challenges against Serbia at home and Italy away with absolute confidence.
“Whilst qualification for RLWC2017 is our key priority for 2016 the board of Wales Rugby League recognises the need for investment in the community game alongside further attention and support in the schools and youth development programme.
“It feels good to be part of Rugby League nation on the move and to be recognised at eighth in the international rankings is a step towards our vision of becoming a top four Rugby League nation on governance and performance.”
The fact that 14 of the 19 players used by Wales this autumn came through the outstanding Wales Rugby League developments ranks, 12 being from South Wales, Juliff, himself a former Wales international, was also quick to praise the continued development where the European Championship win just capped an excellent season for Rugby League in Wales.
In addition to the full international side, Wales played matches at under 16, under 18, Students, Community and Wheelchair levels too.
There were four UK wide domestic trophies won, with North Wales Crusaders tasting victory in the League 1 Cup Final, Swansea University winning the double at the second level of student competition, being South Wales and West league and cup champions and were promoted to Premier League South.
Meanwhile Wales tasted victory in the biggest stage possible after Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf were Year 7 Champion Schools winners at Wembley Stadium beating Wade Deacon from Widnes as a curtain raiser for the Challenge Cup Final.
There were also four near misses with Wales Students (Four Nations), Valley Cougars (Conference South), North Wales Crusaders under 16s (North West Counties Cup) and Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera (Year 8 Champion Schools) all gallant runners up in their respective competitions.
In other successes, Bridgend Blue Bulls were Welsh league champions, competitions were played at under 13, 14, 15 and 16 levels, the first full 80 minute girls game was played in North Wales, while an East v West origin series was revived at three different levels – East Wales beat West Wales in the under 14 and 15 games with West Wales winning at open age level.
And looking to the future, a new Level 3 Academy was opened at Rhondda Cynon Taff based college, Coleg Y Cymoedd, who will work alongside the newly formed South Wales Scorpions under 20s side.
Juliff adds: “The year 2015 has proved to be a formative year for Wales Rugby League in the ‘modern era’.
“As a National Governing Body we have made massive strides in terms of governance, management control and importantly cultural behaviour.
“On that basis alone it has been hugely pleasing to experience the performance of our junior and elite athletes on the playing fields.
“I was fortunate to have been present at Wembley to watch Glantaf systematically break down a long established northern Rugby League school Wade Deacon in an excellent display of running rugby. It was a remarkable achievement by the side and their coach Rhydian Garner.
“This day alone would have made 2015 a season to remember but at schools level we also had Ioan Bebb and his Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Ystalyfera once again pushing barriers as they reached the Year 8 Champions Schools final only to lose to a very powerful St Peter’s school from Wigan.
“Schools playing Rugby League at this level lays the foundations for the future of the game in Wales and I am very grateful to all the school teachers for their interest in the sport and encouraging their young athletes to express themselves on the field of play.
“Our relationship with Coleg y Cymoedd has grown over the last few years and with the newly established Rugby League Level 3 Academy working in parallel with the South Wales Scorpions under 20 team, as well as Allen Jones continuing his excellent work in developing the game throughout North Wales, there is now a recognised pathway for our young talent in our country.
“This is essential as we build the strength of our senior elite squad under the watchful eye of John Kear who has taken Wales from a team without a win since 2012 in to unbeaten European Champions.
“I am grateful to all the parents coaches volunteers and of course players at every level for their commitment in 2015 and look forward with huge optimism in 2016.”
The Official Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) World Rankings are calculated on each nation’s performance over the current season and the four preceding seasons.  Points are awarded to each team for each match based on:
•         The result of the match i.e. win, lose or draw
•         The margin of victory (or defeat)
•         The relative strength of opposition faced
•         The date of the match – more recent matches are weighted more heavily
•         The importance of the match e.g. a World Cup match is given greater weighting than a standalone international.
•         The points are then used to create the Official World Rankings by ordering the teams by virtue of the points gained over the five season period.
Only matches played at senior level between two approved members are considered as part of the rankings.