Leeds Rhinos player-coach Dan Roberts is hopeful PDRL World Cup will go ahead

LEEDS RHINOS player-coach Dan Roberts is hopeful this year’s first Physical Disability Rugby League (PDRL) World Cup will go ahead, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

By Peter Smith
Sunday, 24th January 2021, 4:30 pm
Action from the PDRL clash between Leeds Rhinos and Warrington Wolves during the Dacia Magic Weekend at Anfield in 2019. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.
Action from the PDRL clash between Leeds Rhinos and Warrington Wolves during the Dacia Magic Weekend at Anfield in 2019. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.

Roberts, a founder member of Rhinos’ PDRL side, is England’s assistant-coach for the five-team World Cup which is scheduled to run alongside the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments.

Based in Warrington, where the first PDRL match was played when Rhinos faced the Wolves three years ago, the PDRL event is due to begin on November 1 and culminate in a final at HJ Stadium six days later as a curtain-raiser the men’s group clash between France and Samoa.

But the disability version of the sport has not been played in this country since the end of the 2019 season and with players still unable to train, because of lockdown restrictions, Roberts admitted preparations have been thrown off track.

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Action from the PDRL clash between Leeds Rhinos and Warrington Wolves during the Dacia Magic Weekend at Anfield in 2019. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.

“It is well over a year since we last played,” Roberts recalled.

“Our last game will have been the Grand Final in September, 2019.

“We didn’t play at all last year and it is really, really tough with not being able to train as well.

“We would like to think we will be able to get some training in, we do have some talented players and fingers crossed we will be able to get something together, but we don’t know when we are going to be allowed to train again or if we are going to be able to get any games in this year.”

Rhinos did manage to get together when restrictions were eased, but some players have had to shield because of their disabilities.

Roberts added: “At Leeds we are lucky in that we were able to get two or three training sessions in before being locked down, just doing a bit of exercising, socially distanced, but some teams have not been able to train at all.

“One lad hasn’t left his house much since it started.

“Some of the lads are struggling quite badly because they can’t get out like they used to do.”

Roberts is part of an England backroom team led by coach Shaun Briscoe, the former Wigan Warriors, Hull, Hull KR, Widnes Vikings and England full-back.

Pete Longbottom, stalwart of the East Leeds community club, is in charge of kit, logistics and player welfare for the national side. A prop or second-row, Roberts captained Rhinos in the sport’s inaugural match and took over as coach two years ago. He previously played for the Drighlington club and is also a junior coach there.

His father Paul played as a semi-professional for Bramley when they were coached by Maurice Bamford.

“I was ecstatic, like a kid at Christmas,” Roberts said of his appointment to the England staff.

“I have been involved at Rhinos since the very first training session and I still play.

“When [previous coach] Chris Godfrey left to go to work for the RFL, I asked – with having my coaching badges – if I could get involved with coaching the team as well.

“I want to stay involved when I eventually hang my boots up and stop playing.”

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