The Qualifying tournament for the Americas Region of the Rugby League World Cup will be hosted in Hodges Stadium at UNF in Jacksonville, and Spec Martin Stadium in Deland, FL.
The event will start with the arrival of the National teams from the USA, Canada and Jamaica on December 1, and see three games played over the following 12 days.
A number of people and businesses from Florida helped make the USA Rugby League bid successful, including Firehouse Subs, who have become the Title and Naming rights sponsor to have the event officially known as the "Firehouse Subs Rugby League World Cup Qualifiers – Americas."
"Firehouse Subs is delighted and honored to be partnering USA Rugby League and the Jacksonville Axemen to bring the World Cup qualifiers to North East Florida" said Meg Rose, Vice President of Field Operations.
In addition to Firehouse Subs, two Jacksonville hotels have also partnered with the event to host the visiting teams and offer discounted rates to fans who travel into Florida from around the World for the event. Details for booking rooms at the Sheraton Jacksonville, who will host the USA Hawks, and the Holiday Inn Express in Jacksonville Beach, that will be home for the Jamaican and Canadian teams, will be released very soon.
Dave Herrell, Sports and Entertainment Officer for City of Jacksonville commented: "We are thrilled about the opportunity to host this unique international event. Rugby League is a growing international sport and this will continue the positive momentum Jacksonville has as a world-class sporting event destination.
Hodges Stadium at the University of North Florida has a long history of hosting some of the largest Rugby League events in the United States. "During the past 12 years, UNF has hosted international and nationally ranked teams such as Leeds Rhinos, Salford Reds and the South Sydney Rabbitohs," said Everett Malcolm, UNF associate vice president for Student Affairs. "UNF looks forward to the energy these games will bring to our campus and community."
UNF has also been the home of the Jacksonville Axemen since their inception in 2006, and hosted three USA Rugby League National Championship games during that time.
Games will be played at UNF on December 4 and 12, and director of Athletics at UNF, Lee Moon, said "The University of North Florida Athletics is proud to be able to host two of the Rugby League World Cup Qualifier Games featuring Team USA."
On December 8 the event moves to Spec Martin Stadium in Deland, FL. Adding a larger footprint to the event will put world class Rugby League in front of more fans in the USA, and help increase the profile of another domestic team in the United States. The 6,000 seat stadium is home to the Central Florida Warriors Rugby League team, which draws players from Daytona Beach to Orlando, and will play for the USA Rugby League Southern Conference this weekend against the Atlanta Rhinos.
Chad Rhodes, Recreation Manager for the City of Deland Parks and Recreation Department noted: "A World Cup qualifying game being played at Spec Martin Stadium takes the City of Deland, FL on to the world stage."
New USA coach Brian McDermott now has a focus for his role after details of the ‘Firehouse Subs Rugby League World Cup Qualifiers – Americas’ for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup were revealed.
McDermott, who is the head coach for the Leeds Rhinos in European Super League, also has a history with Florida via the Rhinos pre-season training camp at UNF in 2015, and who plan to return again in 2016. "It’s a great opportunity for me to get experience in an international environment but, as important, to hopefully be able to help build and establish something," McDermott said.
"For now, I’m fully focused with Leeds and Sean Rutgerson (Assistant Coach) is doing a lot of putting things in place. We’ve got a two-tier approach. We’ll go with domestic-based players in the World Cup Qualifiers in an attempt to help strengthen the game and so that the guys can take what they learn back to their clubs and see where they are."
McDermott added, "We’re under no illusions how tough those games will be especially as we’ll be there to be shot at, and there is a terrific rivalry between the nations, which this sport thrives on. If we can start to get it right and put down some meaningful roots, then the potential for raising the profile and exposure of rugby league as a whole, not just in America, is limitless. It could be massive."
Canada RL president Cory Tukeli is equally excited. "This will be the first World Cup Qualifiers for us and everyone involved with the sport here is eager to show the rest of the international community what the Canadian heart is made up of," he said.
While Jamaica Rugby League director, Romeo Monteith, is equally bullish. He claimed, "It will be a good set of matches and Jamaica will look to do our best. A rich blend of motivated and committed players will be selected from the Jamaican and English leagues to represent our proud nation."
Full details for the event will consistently be released at www.usarl.com as well as via the local teams in the area, the Jacksonville Axemen and Central Florida Warriors.
USA v Jamaica
4 December 2015
7pm kick off
Hodges Field, Univ North Florida
Canada v Jamaica
8 December 2015
7pm kick off
Spec Martin Stadium, DeLand
USA v Canada
12 December 2015
3pm kick off
Hodges Field, UNF