Rhinos PDRL players begin their RLWC2021 journeys at classification day

Rugby League broke new ground this weekend with the sport’s first ever ‘classification day’ for disability rugby league as part of the selection process for this Autumn’s Physical Disability Rugby League World Cup.

It was a landmark moment for several members of Leeds Rhinos Foundation’s PDRL team, who were taking the first step towards representing their country at the historic tournament this Autumn.

International Rugby League (IRL) classifiers are using the Activity Alliance (formerly the English Federation of Disability Sports) profiling system. The profile system developed by Dr Chris Meaden, is a recognised and well-established system, it assesses and categorises physical impairments and offers clear and simple guidance on how to identify and group disabled people fairly for sports and activities.

Impairments that qualify for Physical Disability Rugby League (PDRL) are those which impact the biomechanical execution of play. With international PDRL on the horizon in the shape of the inaugural PDRL World Cup, IRL is responsible for ensuring an equitable and fair competition at the elite level.

The PDRL World Cup, which will run alongside RLWC2021, comprises teams from five nations who will take part in a mini-tournament format, including the England Lions side who will be coached by former Hull FC player Sean Briscoe and the Rhinos’ own PDRL Player-Coach Dan Roberts.

Welsh, Scottish and English PDRL players with an eye on World Cup selection were all invited for assessment on Saturday (12 June) at the York City Knights’ new Haxby Road Sports Campus, developed with the support of RLWC2021 CreatedBy funding.

Similar sessions will be held in other participating nations in advance of the RLWC2021 PDRL World Cup, including in Australia and New Zealand.

IRL secretary general Danny Kazandjian welcomed the development, saying: “These are exciting times for rugby league internationally and this work is vital to ensure that our PDRL players can enjoy the best competition possible at RLWC2021.

“I would like to thank the IRL Classification Committee for all its work over the last eight months, to ensure expedition of the classifications process also the IRL classifiers whose skill ensures the process is robust & fair.

“Recent IRL appointments of a Head of Classification and a Chief Classifier are further signs that the sport’s drive to adopt best practice in this important sector is being realised. Finally, thanks to Activity Alliance for their help and support throughout.”

RFL Social and Inclusion Manager, Chris Godfrey, explains: “This is a first for rugby league, and brings governance of PDRL into line with Paralympic sport and international disability competition. It also potentially unlocks more investment into the sport.

“Ultimately, we hope that classification will inspire more people with a broader range of disabilities to take up Physical Disability Rugby League and reinforce the impression of a sport that is safe, fair and competitive.”

The Leeds Rhinos PDRL team return to domestic action this Sunday 20th June when they take on Castleford Tigers in the PDRL League at Leeds Rugby Academy, Kirkstall. Kick off is 3:30pm.  

For more information about our PDRL team and how you can get involved, please contact ben.berry@leedsrhinosfoundation.org