12th June 2020, 13:15 | wheelchair
England have been ranked number two in the first official International Rugby League (IRL) Wheelchair RL World Rankings – providing an additional incentive the next time they face their oldest rivals, France.
The French are ranked one despite England’s historic 31-25 victory in Apt last September – their first ever across the Channel – which was followed by an unbeaten and groundbreaking five-match tour of Australia.
Since then England’s captain Jack Brown has received the first IRL Wheelchair Rugby League Golden Boot award for the world’s best player – and the introduction of the World Rankings is another example of the growing prestige of the Wheelchair game, as the build-up continues to next year’s World Cup in England.
England have had to reconsider plans to host Australia’s Wheelaroos for a return Ashes Series this autumn because of the uncertainty surrounding global travel as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
However there are hopes of organising alternative international fixtures for the end of the year, with the England squad currently following individual training programmes.
England learned this week that they will be based in London for the World Cup next year, along with the other three teams in their group – Australia, Spain and Norway.
France are in the other group in the eight-team competition, based in Sheffield with Wales, Scotland and the USA – with the Final to take place at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool on November 26.
The French developed the wheelchair variant of rugby league in 2002 and are the current World Cup holders.
Wheelchair Rugby League has been transformed over the past decade and now features eight nations in the rankings. This will certainly increase over the next 18 months as Norway and the USA make their World Cup debuts next year.
The world rankings are calculated using exactly the same formula as for the men’s and women’s running game. They only consider full international matches played over the past four-year period and are based upon the result of the game, the strength of the opponent with the most recent results carrying the most weight. World Cup games carry more weight than standard international matches.
Pippa Britton, who chairs the IRL Wheelchair Working Group, said: “This is another welcome advance for Wheelchair Rugby League as we prepare for RLWC2021 where all the athletes will be treated equally.”
Full Rankings are:
1. France - 100%
2. England - 97%
3. Wales - 77%
4. Australia - 46%
5. Italy - 43%
6. Scotland - 29%
7. Spain - 25%
8. Ireland - 14%