Brasil sets sights on World Cup – in rugby league!

Brasil sets sights on World Cup – in rugby league!

One of the world’s biggest nations has fully awoken to rugby league, with men and women’s rugby league booming in Brasil, population 210 million.

Ranked fifth in the world in terms of both population and geographic size, Brasil is also home to one of the most influential economies on a global scale.

While rugby league has been played in Brasil six years, it has been in multiple small pockets, without overarching coordination or a planned calendar on a national scale.

That has all changed in 2018, and the commendable efforts of local organisers will culminate in a Tri Nations featuring Brasil, Argentina and Colombia, a women’s international series between Brasil and Argentina, and a nines tournament between domestic teams.

The event will take place at Clube de Campo do Palmeiras, Sao Paulo on November 24-25.

Confederacao Brasileira de Rugby League director Hugo Froes said he was greatly pleased with the quality available for selection, after Brasil finished last at the 2017 Latin American men’s championship.

“The 2018 selection trials (for the national squad) have been amazing…very tough,” said Froes.

“I think the preparation has been good and we will build a very strong Brasilian team.

“A lot of players have come from high-level programs in rugby union and we are finding more foreigners living in Brasil who have experience in rugby league to help lift the standard.

“The lightest guy we are looking at selecting is 88kg, which is a significantly different scenario to even one year ago.

“Most importantly, everyone has left happy, enjoyed the experience and offered praise.”

As much as Brasil is on the up in men’s rugby league, they are making even greater strides in female league, eyeing off a place in the 2021 Women’s World Cup.

One player who has turned heads with her dedication is Karina Araujo, who is travelling 950km from Vitoria to play in Sao Paulo.

“She is amazing,” said Froes.

“I’ve seen her for many years playing in the Brasilian rugby union championship, but where she lives doesn’t have great visibility in rugby, so for her the lure of a World Cup in rugby league is special.

“We also have Edna Santini and Paula Ishibashi who played rugby at the Olympics and have played a lot of rugby sevens and world series.

“We are building a very competitive female team that I believe will be on a similar level to most of the teams that contested the last women’s World Cup.”

While the door to the 2021 women’s World Cup is slightly ajar at the moment, the men’s team will be aiming for 2025, with Chile representing Latin America in the upcoming 2021 qualifiers in Florida, USA.