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Rugby League Ireland chairman Dave Southern has revealed that the organisation has received a flood of interest in the national competition that it plans to launch this summer.
RLI has been inviting applicants for a new 18-team, provincial-based competition, which it hopes will enjoy the same level of success that the burgeoning Rugby League Conference has in England and Wales. In order to support their expansion ambitions RLI have teamed up with the fund-raising group 1895 International to stage a St Patrick?s Day dinner at Huddersfield?s historic George Hotel on Saturday March 20, with all proceeds raised going towards the new competition and the Irish Wolfhounds ?A? team?s summer international program.
?This dinner will hopefully put us on the map as an expansive organisation,? commented Southern. ?It?s also vital as a fundraising initiative and will help us achieve our goals this year, with the Four Nations Championships and our new All-Ireland Championship.
?We hope to raise sufficient funds to be able to send the winners of this competition over to the UK in order to take part in a clash of champions against the winners of the Rugby League Conference.?
?Rugby league is growing incrementally in Ireland at an encouraging rate and this will help to further increase our profile.?
GB & Ireland Test winger Brian Carney has already been confirmed as guest of honour for the gala evening, which will include a three-course meal and a traditional Irish band, whilst other guests from the worlds of sport and politics are expected to be announced shortly.
1895 International and RLI have also appointed Code Blue Marketing Services as event managers. Tickets will be available for ?35 per head and guests will also be able to take advantage of a special overnight rate at the George Hotel of ?50 for a double room (based on two people sharing), including a Full Irish Breakfast.
?We are very excited about this Opportunity,? said Code Blue?s sales director Neil Wheeler, whose company has supported rugby league in the past by sponsoring Rugby League Conference club Leeds Akademiks.
?CBMS are very passionate about the sport of rugby league and would like to think of this as the start of a healthy relationship with the sport.?
This event is a vital part of RLI?s plans to establish rugby league as a major sport in Ireland. The organisation has already broken down a number of barriers by working in tandem with rugby union and other sports clubs to develop the sport, but they have made it clear that they need support from rugby league?s traditional heartlands in order to achieve their aims.
?The progress we?ve made since we invited applications for the new summer conference have been very encouraging,? continued Southern. ?The interest levels have been great and we?ve been stunned by the response that we?ve had when approaching rugby union clubs over here.
?They respect our game and are extremely open to it. I was sceptical at first about the response we may receive from some of these clubs but we have been welcomed with open arms. You?re always going to get some people who are stuck in the past but generally people have had nothing but respect for our sport and are willing to learn from it.
?Hopefully supporters of our own game will demonstrate similar enthusiasm by supporting events such as the St Patrick?s Day dinner. We?re trying to reach out to the Irish community both here, in the UK and elsewhere in the world, and hopefully they will be enthused by what we are trying to achieve in Ireland.?