Automatic spot for Wales
Wales have been awarded automatic qualification for the 2013 World Cup, which will be hosted by the RFL and staged in the UK.
By Rachel Griffiths
Last Updated: 07/05/10 3:42pm
Wales have been awarded automatic qualification for the 2013 World Cup, which will be hosted by the Rugby Football League and staged in the United Kingdom.
The Welsh, who reached the World Cup semi-finals in 1995 and 2000, did not compete in the 2008 edition in Australia after losing to Scotland in the qualifying tournament.
But they will be one of 12 teams granted automatic entry after they were made full members of the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) at their meeting in Melbourne.
The RLIF announced in February that the World Cup would be expanded from 10 to 14 teams, with two of them to enter through qualifying tournaments which are expected to be the Pacific Cup and the European Cup.
The other automatic spot is likely to be granted to either Cook Islands, who were defeated in the final of the 2009 Pacific Cup to Papua New Guinea, or Lebanon, who narrowly missed out on qualification for the 2008 tournament.
Wales will compete alongside 10 teams who participated last time - holders New Zealand, Australia, England, Papua New Guinea, France, Ireland, Scotland, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga - and are almost certain to host matches in 2013.
Wales Rugby League executive chairman Mark Rowley, who attended the two-day meeting in Melbourne, is delighted with the result.
"I'm very pleased with the outcome," said Rowley.
"This is a momentous day for Wales Rugby League. We achieved autonomous status in 2006 which was our first major step up the international rugby league ladder.
"We were then officially recognised by the Sports Council of Wales later that year but today we are in the major hierarchy of our own sport."
Wales first made an impact on the international stage by winning the 2009 European Cup, and with the establishment of a Super League presence in Wrexham, Rowley insists the future of the game looks bright for the Principality.
"It's more exciting than ever to be part of rugby league in Wales right now," he said.
"We have two professional sides for the first time in almost 100 years in Crusaders and South Wales Scorpions, with the Scorpions fielding 99% Welsh-born players.
"We are now heading towards the 2013 Rugby League World Cup in full confidence but our next aim is to qualify for the 2011 Four Nations and we take on Ireland, Scotland and France for that right this autumn."