The Greek Rugby League Federation has stated it is “sad” and “disappointed” that the men’s Rugby League World Cup will be reduced from 16 nations to just 10 for the 2026 tournament in the southern hemisphere.
Greece made history in the 2021 World Cup when it qualified for the first time.
But under changes announced by the International Rugby League (IRL) on Thursday, there will be just 10 teams at the next World Cup.
There are now just two qualifying spots up for grabs with the eight quarter-finalists from 2021 – Australia, Lebanon, England, PNG, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa – already confirmed for the 2026 event.
Also, under the new restrictions only full members of the IRL can qualify for the men’s World Cup.
Greece, currently ranked 16th in the world, are only affiliate members and are not a full member of the IRL, so are therefore ineligible along with Jamaica, the United States and many other countries.
Full members of the IRL in Europe include England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotand, Serbia, Wales and Ukraine.
Questions have been asked about the membership process, considering Greece currently has more domestic rugby league activity and players than the likes of Scotland and Ireland.
After the announcement yesterday the Greek Federation posted on Facebook: “Sad developments today, but we continue to look ahead. Nothing’s gonna stop us!
— International RL (@IntRL) August 3, 2023
“Despite today’s disappointing news, we remain focused and determined! Forward is the only direction we know!”
It is believed Greece will be pushing on with plans to gain full membership of the IRL as soon as possible.
The Greek Federation declined to comment when contacted by Everything Rugby League.
Ireland’s head coach, Ged Corcoran, voiced his own displeasure at the World Cup reduction of 16 to 10.
“Mixed emotions about this mornings announcement,” he posted on Twitter.
“Not going to lie but lowering the participation to 10 teams for a World Cup is a little heart breaking and preventing players from being able to live and experience the dream #rugbyleaguewinsagain.
“What happened [sic] to the chat about the World Cup being the most inclusive sport in the world, having more nations playing and giving them a bigger shop window of exposure. It’s making the split more evident from the tier 1 & tier 2 nations to everybody else.”
Rugby League Ireland has been approached for comment.