It was a rude awakening for the country’s first ever domestic rugby league club, København RLFK, when it lost 18-30 to the Sweden Barbarians on October 6, but off the pitch it was a victory for a code of the sport that is really beginning to take off in Denmark and across Scandinavia.
It signals the intentions of rugby league enthusiasts in both Denmark and Sweden to establish a pan-Scandinavian league in 2013, which will be principally based in Zealand and Scania.
The Danish national side thrashed Sweden 122-8 in April, and Sweden are currently the bottom-ranked nation in the world (28 to Denmark’s 27) – although a further ten countries are unranked.
But for this club game, they were better prepared, opting to recruit several experienced rugby union expats based in the region – a similar tactic to the one employed by the Danish national team for their first ever game back in 2009. In total, the Sweden Barbarians fielded 13 different nationalities and eleven current or former internationals, boasting 35 caps between them.
“Rugby league suits the natural athleticism of Scandinavian people,” enthused the Sweden Barbarians’ Scottish coach Rob Leishman. “It is simple to learn, fun to play and great to watch – as was proven by the fantastic crowd that turned up today.”