Wheelchair rugby: 5 things we learned in 2017

Top teams stay strong in build up to next year’s World Championship 23 Dec 2017
men tackle for the ball in wheelchairs

Great Britain retained their European title in 2017

ⒸKarol Malec
By Beau Greenway | For the IPC

The year after the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games marks the beginning of a new four-year cycle in the world of wheelchair rugby and there was plenty to keep fans occupied.

1. World Championship qualifiers still to be decided

Four countries have one last chance to qualify for the 2018 International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) World Championship in Sydney, Australia, from 5-10 August.

Defending Paralympic champions and hosts Australia have already secured their place, alongside Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Japan, Sweden and the USA. Early in 2018 a further eight teams will compete for the last four spots.

A tournament will be staged in Switzerland from April 2-9 2018, with the hosts joined by Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Ireland, Korea, New Zealand and Poland to battle it out for a ticket to Sydney.

2. Great Britain remains Europe’s best

Great Britain retained its crown as IWRF European champions with a 49-41 against Sweden in the gold medal game in Koblenz, Germany.

The final was a repeat of the 2015 decider which Great Britain won by a single goal.

France was too strong for Denmark in the bronze medal clash, however, the top four teams were all automatic qualifiers for the World Championship.

3. USA still a force to be reckoned with

The world’s No.2 ranked nation is hungry to wrestle back the top spot from Australia in 2018.

A perfect opportunity will present itself at the World Championship on Australian soil.

The USA booked its place at the Worlds with a comprehensive 54-43 win over Canada at the Americas Championship.

4. Australia stays top of the crop

In what has been a relatively quiet year for the defending Paralympic and world champions, Australia has continued its solid preparation towards the 2018 IWRF World Championship.

The Steelers were automatically qualified for the event, but proved they are still the team to beat by claiming the IWRF Asia-Oceania Championship in Auckland, New Zealand.

Australia edged out rivals Japan 53-46 to finish the season on a high.

5. The sport continues to experience rapid growth

The 2017 wheelchair rugby season was another breakthrough year for the sport.

A total of 29 countries make up the world rankings, including new teams from Norway and Paraguay.

The Netherlands also made an impressive return to competitive wheelchair rugby by taking out the IWRF European Division C Championship against the likes of Russia, Czech Republic and Israel.

Winning the event propelled the Dutch up eight spots in the rankings to finish the year at No.21.