Tournament director of the final European qualifiers for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, Chris Thair, who is also general manager of the Rugby League European Federation which is responsible for the matches, has responded to comments made by two senior Ireland players after their 42-8 victory in Valencia, Spain last Saturday.
Issues were raised about the staging of the game and some of the logistics surrounding it and Thair, who has spoken to both of the players directly, said: “No official complaint has been made by Rugby League Ireland and no case found to start any disciplinary proceedings. The responsibility to deliver a good match day experience rests with the home federation. The standards that must be fulfilled are clearly mapped out in our regulations and tournament manual.
“The venue met all the minimum requirements and the playing surface was passed fit to play by the referee and experienced match commissioner. Any potential issues raised at Friday’s captain’s run were all rectified before the game.”
The match was originally scheduled to take place at Matias Prats Football Stadium in Torredonjimeno, however - in part due to the severe droughts over the summer in Spain - the fixture had to be moved at relatively short notice to Xativa. The facility is the home of a rugby league club in Spain.
Thair added: “The referee and two touch judges are independently appointed by the RLEF Match Official Panel. Geoffrey Poumes is an experienced official and referee performances are reviewed accordingly. The game was challenging, with three yellow cards issued in the second half and numerous stoppages due to foul play.”
Spain head coach Darren Fisher responded to the allegations: “We respect feedback, positive or negative, for future reference. Whilst we can defend all of our actions, we will endeavour to take on board better communication and more committed liaisons with our visitors. Having to change the venue at short notice, although it fitted all necessary requirements, was the chief cause of some of the disquiet.
“I wish Ireland the best of luck for their next game, I’m sure a place in the full World Cup beckons for them in 2021.”
Ireland Head Coach Stuart Littler noted: “Lessons have been learned for the future and it is important that we continue to support the international growth of the sport. We are solely concentrating on World Cup qualification and hope Spain have good fortune in their own quest.”
One of the Ireland players who made the allegations, Oliver Roberts, confirmed: “I felt I had to speak out, however, I’m glad the matter has been resolved. I now just wish to move on, play for Ireland and qualify for the World Cup.”