2 Nov 2022
Lacombe: We must start fast against Ireland
Spain open their wheelchair Rugby League World Cup campaign in the very first game in Stratford on Thursday
By Oli Dickson Jefford
Every team enters a World Cup with different targets, goals or ambitions.
While for some anything other than victory would be unsatisfactory, for others this wheelchair Rugby League World Cup provides the latest step in a continuing journey.
Spain are under no illusions about the magnitude of the challenge they face when they kickstart their campaign against Ireland at the Copper Box on Thursday.
Captained by the experienced Joel Lacombe, they are in a group alongside leading contenders England and Australia, so know it is vital to try and take something from their opening game against the Wolfhounds, who themselves were late replacements for Norway.
The dynamic of the Spanish squad has changed dramatically in the past 12 months and for Lacombe this World Cup is about the side enjoying their experience and growing in maturity - though a win or two wouldn’t go amiss in the biggest and most significant edition of the event to date.
He said: “It doesn’t matter whether you're male or female or with a disability, the fact that we’re all here is fabulous and I hope that other countries can replicate what England has done for this tournament in terms of inclusivity, equality, the fact that we’re all on the same stage and we’re all treated exactly the same.
“My role as captain is to lead by example, and of course we’re very excited to be here. We’ve got our first game against Ireland, we want to take some experience from that but also enjoy it.
“Our team has been hit by the impact of Covid, we’re now a very young side. Maybe we’ll win a game or two, it would be great to enjoy the game against Ireland and take something from that.
“Last time we played against Australia we lost by eight or nine points, it would be great to reverse that score, and you never know, we could win.”
Head coach Jean-Marc Gonzalez admits Spain's pool is a challenging one, it is a potential semi-final against reigning champions and neighbouring France that he has his eyes on.
“We’ve all got our own objectives, obviously,” he said.
“For me as a coach, it would be to get out past the pool stages and to play France in the semi-finals, but we’re in an incredibly difficult pool. We’ve got England who are obviously an incredible team, we’ve got Australia who are getting better and better, we play Ireland and of course there’s us.
“It would be incredible for me, for our players, for everybody who supports us and for our country if we were to achieve that.”
The Rugby League World Cup promises to be the biggest, best and most inclusive event in the sport’s 127-year history with men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams competing in 61 games across 21 venues throughout England. Tickets are available via rlwc2021.com/tickets