Chile is focused on picking up from where it left off almost 12 months ago when it takes on Malta in a men’s rugby league international this Saturday in Sydney.
The Weichafes haven’t played a game since competing in the South American Championship last November in Colombia.
In 2022, they beat the Philippines in Sydney in March and then played in the South American Championship losing narrowly to Brazil before beating Colombia convincingly.
At the time, the defeat by Brazil looked to have cost Chile a spot in the Americas region qualifiers for the 2025 Rugby League World Cup that were scheduled to be played for this autumn, however, all global qualifiers were scrapped earlier this year by the International Rugby League (IRL) after France dropped out as host of #RLWC2025 which forced the IRL to completely rework its RLWC plans.
Head coach Rod Millar says he and Chile Rugby League XIII’s executive are still unclear as to why a new procedure was put in place for the South American Championship as it meant that they were allowed to include only seven heritage players on the team’s roster with the rest needing to be domestic guys.
“The team we had that defeated the Philippines earlier last year wasn’t able to compete and there were (heritage) players who weren’t able to travel from Australia to Colombia,” Millar explains to Rugby League Planet.
“So, we had to choose seven players and the rest domestics, and we only got two training sessions together. That’s not really an excuse, although we thought we should have won that (Brazil) game. We lost by two points, and it was from a late mistake. They kicked the ball up in the air, it got dropped, bounced, they came through and picked it up and scored.
“I’ve got to give Brazil accolades for that game as they stuck to their guns. It was played on a synthetic field, and it was raining, so neither team had the chance to play at pace or do any outstanding backline moves but they did a better job on the day than we did so congratulations to them.”
Millar goes in to say that while his players are still a bit miffed over the loss, the fact that now there are no qualifiers kind of takes some of the sting out of it.
He says because of the short notice for the Malta game, on top of some visa restrictions for travel from Chile to Australia, several players weren’t able to make the trip from South America meaning the Weichafes side for Saturday’s game will be made up entirely of heritage players, although the kicker is they don’t include any who played in the last Americas region qualifying series in 2018 as they’ve all since retired.
As a result, the coach says Chile is into a rebuilding process and will be fielding as many as eight to ten young debutants against the Knights. He says they play in Australian domestic competitions, mostly in New South Wales.
That aside, he says it will be a tough game anyway given the team’s preparation time has been fairly limited.
“We’ve just got to make sure that we try and play the game that we know how to play rather than try and play someone else’s game,” adds Millar.
“Bring ‘em on! You’ve just got to be on the ball on the day. It’s up to your individual preparation and how you’re mentally prepared for the game. You do the best you can and count on your teammates for their support if you need it.
“We know that they are highly ranked, and they played a very good side in Italy, so we’ve just got to play our own game and keep them honest.”
The game against Malta could be the one and only international that Chile plays this year, although Ukraine has also asked for a match in Australia, however, it hasn’t been confirmed.
Millar says that if the Ukraine game does not go ahead by early November, it will more than likely be added to Chile’s calendar in 2024.
He says aside from the Ukrainians, Poland also wants to play Chile, as does Macedonia and all of those matches will hopefully be put onto the 2024 schedule.