The Wales Rugby League Wheelchair side are set to make history in February 2023 as they become the first rugby league team outside of the Americas to tour Brazil.
The six-time Celtic Cup champions, who will be competing in this autumn’s Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup, will take part in a number of collaborative training sessions with their hosts, as well as their own preparations before taking on Brazil in a series of international fixtures.
The fixtures between Wales and Brazil will be for the inaugural ‘Crusaders Cup’, named after Welsh side, North Wales Crusaders following their generous donation of more than 30 wheelchair playing shirts to assist the sport in its early stages within South America’s biggest country.
Brazil Rugby League COO, Hugo Fróes said: “It’s a milestone and a huge honour for us to be able to welcome a European team to Brazil, especially a team that will come after playing in the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup.
“It won’t just be games, but an exchange of knowledge and teaching, so it’s fundamental for that we can grow faster and win our spot for the World Cup in France in 2025.”
This tour will come off the back of Brazil becoming the first South American side to participate in the Rugby League World Cup when their Women’s side travel to England later this year, and after declaring their intent in entering the 2025 Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup in France.
Wales international and tour organiser, Harry Jones said: “This is a huge opportunity, not only to boost the profile of each team and the sport, but to also showcase and highlight international collaboration.
“Since I organised the donation of the Crusaders shirts to Brazil, I have been in contact with Hugo on a near daily basis and the fact that the tour is officially happening is huge.
“Going to a nation where rugby league as a whole is still in its infancy and being able to showcase our sport is massive.
“I truly hope that this tour will help not only Wales and Brazil develop Wheelchair Rugby League, but will also help other countries develop the sport and highlight the importance in cross-club and cross-national collaboration.”
WRL chairman, Brian Juliff, added: “It’s been a pleasure to watch the development of Wales Rugby League Wheelchair since its inception nearly ten years ago.
“The credit to the consistency and quality of everything around this team rests firmly with some outstanding volunteers like Mark A Jones, Stephen Jones and the inimitable ‘Lord Harry Jones’ who is the driving force behind the latest self-funding and groundbreaking tour by the team to Brazil next year.
“As always, the innovation and commitment from this group is outstanding and I’m looking forward to following their progress on the tour to Brazil and, of course, will be shouting them to victory in the World Cup in Sheffield later this year.”
David Butler, European Rugby League General Manager, said: “It’s great to see Wales making a trip to the southern hemisphere and supporting the development of Wheelchair Rugby League in Brazil.
“The global development of Wheelchair Rugby League ahead of RLWC2025 is a really exciting prospect and I am sure that Brazil’s opportunity to stage international matches against Wales will serve to help them develop and to help spread the word about the wheelchair variant of our fantastic sport across South America.”