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31 January 2013

IWRF European Qualifier Preview

Dublin, Ireland - On February 7-9, 2013, the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation’s (IWRF) European Qualifier will take place at Gormanston College just outside of Dublin, Ireland. National teams from the Czech Republic, Italy, Netherlands and host country Ireland will all attend this IWRF sanctioned event in hopes of earning one of two available spots at the IWRF European Championship to be held in Antwerp, Belgium this August. 


Organized by the Irish Wheelchair Association of Sport, Director Nicky Hamill said they are excited to be hosting this tournament and hope to exceed the success that they had when Ireland hosted the event in 2009. Ireland has been playing wheelchair rugby since 1997, and has roughly 35 players (both male and female) participating on either a competitive or recreational level.


When asked for an overview of the competition Hamill stated, “We expect all of the games to be closely fought and hope to earn one of the qualifying places.”


“In the past the Dutch team has been our biggest challenge. However, over the past few years there has been very little between ourselves and the Czech Republic – always very competitive games. Italy is relatively new to the game and we have not played them before, but we are taking nothing for granted there either. I suspect they are waiting in the long grass to take a few scalps!”


Wheelchair rugby started in Italy a little more than two years ago in a region called Veneto, the same area where the countries National rugby side began one hundred years ago. This is the first sanctioned tournament that the Italians have attended, and it will earn them a position on the IWRF World Ranking list. Team Manager Claudio da Ponte says the team is excited to attend this important tournament, and that they have been preparing by going through some unofficial test matches.


“We know that we still have to work very hard to reach the other ranked national teams, but this is a great chance for us, and I know that all players and coaches will give the best they can. Every team for us will be a great challenge, but the first match against Holland will say the truth about our chance to qualify for the European Champs.”


The Czech Republic is celebrating their 20th Anniversary in the sport, and like many countries, they still struggle with finding adequate funding. With 30 active players and 10 on the recreational side, David Lukes, President of CRWR and Coach of the National team said this is their biggest challenge.


“People in Czech Republic respect our sport and everybody around who makes our game possible. We have only one big problem, which is finding money and sponsors for our sport. Players have to pay a portion of the costs by themselves and this negatively Czech Republic WC Rugby Teaminfluences the development and growth of wheelchair rugby as a sport; it also has a negative effect on work with rookies and newcomers. With that being said, we are lucky to have people and organizations that help us and I would like to thank all of them for their support.”


When asked about the upcoming tournament in Dublin Lukes went on to say, “Ireland and Netherlands are on the same level now. I saw both teams during Rugbymania, and they are getting better and better. Ireland will have the benefit of home environment and fan support; Netherlands has Thomas Pool back in the National Team line up.”


“We have the best team since the 2007 European Championship, and we hope that we finish in the first two places to get the opportunity to go to Belgium and place among the best 12 teams in Europe.”


Europe is the largest of the IWRF’s three zones, and continues to grow at a rapid pace. While the four countries competing at this tournament are currently at the bottom of the European ranking list, it’s expected that all of the matches in Ireland will be highly contested. You can follow all of the highlights and scores from Dublin on the IWRF’s Twitter page at www.twitter.com/iwrf.


The public is encouraged to come support their “Wheels in Green” and see some terrific sport at no cost. Opening ceremonies begin at 6:00 PM on Thursday, February 7, immediately followed by the first match between Ireland and the Netherlands (see full schedule below).


Wheelchair rugby is a fast-paced, hard hitting Paralympic sport, full of non-stop thrills and action. For more information contact Nicky Hamill at or visit www.iwrf.com.


IWRF 2013 European Qualifier Tournament Schedule

Thursday, February 7

6:00 PM

Opening Ceremony



6:15 PM

Ireland vs. Czech Republic



8:00 PM

Netherlands vs. Italy


Friday, February 8

11:00 AM

Ireland vs. Italy



1:00 PM

Netherlands vs. Czech Republic



6:00 PM

Ireland vs. Netherlands



7:45 PM

Italy vs. Czech Republic


Saturday, February 9

2:00 PM

Bronze Medal Match - 3 vs. 4



4:30 PM

Championship Match - 1 vs. 2


Click here to download full schedule. Tournament to take place at Gormanston College.















About the IWRF

The International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) is the governing body responsible for the sport of Wheelchair Rugby. Our mission is to grow and support the global wheelchair rugby family, and our vision is to be a world leader in wheelchair sport. For more information about the IWRF, please visit our website at www.iwrf.com