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Fisher Scotland Player of Year at sixth attempt

Scotland Rugby League’s traditional hogmanay ‘Player of the Year’ announcement saw London hooker Ben Fisher named as winner of the Dave Valentine Award. It was chosen by the Scotland management team of Dave Rotheram, Chris Chester, Ollie Cruickshank and George Fairbairn. Fellow new Broncos recruit, young three-quarter Alex Hurst was runner-up by just one vote.

Italians get celebrity backing Soccer star Alessandro Del Piero, now playing in Sydney, met Anthony Minichiello to help promote the Azzurri’s RL2013 World Cup campaign, the pair swapping their respective international shirts. “I watched the Grand Final when I got here,” said Del Piero. “It was a big crowd in a big stadium and the atmosphere was very good. It was exciting.”

Ghana completes first technical course Ghana Rugby League Development Manager Sylvester Wellington oversaw the completion of a training course for potential rugby league leaders at the University of Ghana in Legon, Accra. It was delivered by a three-man RLEF technical delegation over six days. A total of 63 candidates from civil society, schools and universities, national defence establishments and Nigeria attended.

First Greek coaches qualified Konstantinos Tzevelekos, Ioannis Mavros, Anastasios Pantazidis, Matthew Ashill and Iordanis Bilikaidis have become the first Greek coaches to gain their Level 1 qualification after completion of a two-day course in Nikaia, North of Piraeus. It was organised following co-operation between the Greek RL committee and the Serbian RL Federation.

Reggae rugby league primed for 2013 The Jamaican RLA is looking forward to 2013 after another successful year of growth and expansion. “2012 was a solid year for us,” said Romeo Monteith, Director of Rugby at the JRLA and RLEF Development Manager for the Caribbean. “We had a productive national competition with eight clubs, a five-team Intercollegiate Championship and activities in 12 high schools and some primary schools.”

Renewed optimism in Russia The Association of RL Clubs [ARLK], which assumed control of the sport in 2010, held its AGM in Vereya, south of Moscow. President Edgard Taturyan reported on a year of discernible progress: “We have switched from crisis management to creative work.” The year saw an increase in overall activity with six new senior teams and a 78 per cent increase in the number of 13-a-side matches played. Youth activity centered around parts of the capital, the Vereya-Naro-Fominsk area to the south and St Petersburg on the Baltic coast.

The Forty-20World Cup countdown continues as MIKE RYLANCE reports on the latest rugby a treize developments in la belle France

Rhythm and bleus

With two matches being staged on home territory, France is keeping its fingers crossed that the Cup they brought into the world will boost the national side’s slow recovery towards highlevel competition. Off-the-field activity has already begun.

The French have achieved impressive attendances for recent international matches, with crowds at Avignon, Albi and (remarkably) Lens passing the five-figure mark in the past three years.

Already the French Federation’s new president, Carlos Zalduendo, has set up an organising committee in Perpignan in order to make the most of two key events - apart from Super League matches - in the city. Stade Gilbert Brutus will host the last of France’s group matches when they face Samoa there on Armistice Day. Before that, the Catalan capital will be the venue for the French championship final, which takes place on the weekend of May 4-5.

Avignon, which has seen crowds of 16,000 and 14,000 for matches against England and Ireland in the past two years, will also be in the Federation’s spotlight ahead of the group match against New Zealand, ten days before meeting Samoa.

France face a testing time in Group B alongside New Zealand, PNG and Samoa, though three from the pool will qualify for the quarter-finals. That stage, apparently, is now their objective, somewhat reduced in ambition since previous president Nicolas Larrat targeted a semi-final place. But Larrat dithered far too long over who to appoint as national coach, with the result that Lézignan’s Aurélien Cologni has been the interim boss for more than a year and no successor is in sight.

If France are to reach the semis, they will need to get off to a good start by beating PNG in their first game at Craven Park, Hull. It’s a tough ask, and one they didn’t manage in 2000 in Paris against a side led by Adrian Lam.

It’s not outrageous to assume that New Zealand will top Group B, which would mean that France would have to finish second to stand a good chance of making the semis. If they do finish as runners-up they will probably meet Fiji or Ireland. If they finish third, they will meet the secondplaced team from that same Group A (most likely England or Australia).

Recent history is not on France’s side. Their performance in the 2008 competition

Possible role: Returning David Waite SWPix.com

■ Canada go into 2013 on the hunt for a new head coach. But according to technical director Jamie Lester, given the successes of last year, the voluntary post should have tremendous appeal.

“The 2012 season was full of promise and delivered,” he said, reflecting on the state of the sport in Ontario. “It’s fair to say that British Columbia RL exceeded everyone’s expectations in their first year, with a solid five-team competition, the representative BC Bulldogs performing admirably in a home and away series against Utah Avalanche plus a third-place finish at the Remembrance Cup.”

At the conclusion of the domestic competitions, the CRL announced that two of its best youngsters, BC’s Chris Chalmers and Ontario teenager Graham Dobbs, had earned a six-week scholarship to train with Hull.

“The future looks very bright for Canada Rugby League,” said FC’s Lee Jenkinson upon their arrival in East Yorkshire. “To think that the game is in its infancy there yet two of the first blokes we have seen could go further in

40 Forty-20 January 2013