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The first steps to make the 2008 Rugby League World Cup one of the most competitive in history have been laid with the announcement of an Under 16?s Rugby League tournament to be held in Moscow at the end of the year.
The tournament, which will be the equivalent of a World Cup for the youths will see at least 10 nations do battle at Moscow?s Olympic Stadium with the event to be covered by Russian Television and to be funded by the Moscow Council. The unprecedented event for Rugby League means a lot for the World Cup which is still four years off, as for many nations these players will make up some of the key positions of their national teams.
Whilst England, New Zealand and Australia will most likely pick sides for the World Cup based upon players already participating in their senior competitions, the likes of France, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, PNG and Russia will be looking forward to the next generation of players coming through.
For most of these nations these players will be the first for their nation which have come up through the junior structures and have played League for a long enough period to be competent in the game, as well being put through some of the best junior league structures in the world.
France, who has been consistently defeating England of late at Junior levels will be looking at boosting their depth, especially with UTC to enter Super League in 2006. Russia will be looking at having a side of players who are not new to the game of League, rather have had it as much a part of their lives as most Sydneysiders or Yorkshiremen.
The home nations who have always participated reasonably well at the junior levels will be looking at identifying future talent, whilst PNG is at a point where they finally trying to enter the realms of being competitive on the international circuit, especially after the Presidents XIII did so well in their two games in 2003.
Now is the time for all nations to start to get ready for the 2008 Rugby League World Cup in order to make it the best possible event.