2021 Rugby League World Cup – England to host pinnacle event

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2021 Rugby League World Cup - England to host pinnacle event
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 25: England sing the national anthem during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup Semi Final match between Tonga and England at Mt Smart Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Just over a week ago, the venues for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) were announced. The hosting nation will be England, with the 32 teams competing across the Northern Powerhouse counties, in October and November [approximately two years away].

Last Word On Rugby decided to run the rule over the host cities and stadiums, and other talking points of the RLWC. That includes the first-ever tournament to showcase International wheelchair rugby league.

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The England 2021, Rugby League World Cup graphic – courtesy of rlwc2021.com

New Rugby League venues

While the majority of games are being played at traditional rugby league stadiums, some new venues will host matches. Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium is a notable new venue. A ground yet to host a rugby league match, this 60,000 seater will be the host of a men’s semi-final.

  • Leeds’ Elland Road will host the other semi-final.
  • Furthermore, the Riverside Stadium, home of Middlesbrough FC, will host a men’s group match.
  • Workington’s purpose-built 8,000 capacity Community Stadium will stage three men’s group matches.
  • Grounds such as the Haliwell Jones Stadium (Warrington), Emerald Headingley (Leeds) have been chosen but others have not.

Some notable Rugby League World Cup host exceptions

There are several key exceptions to the list of tournament hosts. One of the most significant for rugby league traditionalists, is Wembley Stadium. A RLWC semi-final host in the 2013 event, and the stage for the Challenge Cup final.

This might be controversial, however the range of fixtures across England has shown organizers wish to expand the games reach – one of the fundamental points of England winning the hosting rights. It plays to the loyal, as well as looking to convert sports fans over the whole nation, and to inspire others with wheelchair matches to celebrate all the players that aim to participate.

Wigan’s DW Stadium was also overlooked, in favour of the Leigh Sports Village, home of Leigh Centurions.

While some missed out, other well known rugby league centers will play an important part of the competition. Old Trafford,with a capacity of 75,000, will host the women’s final in a double-header with the men’s final played immediately afterward. 

RLWC Men’s Competition

Leading the tournament, will be the men’s competition. Australia are the current world champions, and England will want to perform strongly, if they are to take a place in the 2021 final at Old Trafford.

  • Newcastle’s St James’ Park will host the first England match of the competition and the opening ceremony. 
  • Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane and the University of Bolton Stadium will hold the remaining group games. 
  • Bramall Lane is a new venue for the World Cup while the University of Bolton has been included, and in 2019 will host this year’s men’s and women’s Challenge Cup semi-finals.
  • The Emirates Stadium or Elland Road will host the semi-finals. The latter has a 38,000 capacity and hosted the Test series last summer between England and New Zealand.

RLWC Women’s competition

The women’s competition in 2021 has had its profile raised by the scheduling. Last year it ran in a reduced capacity in Australia and New Zealand, with the final finding some ‘spotlight’ when it was played before the men’ Cup final.

  • Liverpool FC’s Anfield will hold a double-header for England’s opening match and a men’s game. 
  • Emerald Headingley Stadium, home of the Leeds Rhinos, will host the remaining two group matches.
  • York’s Community Stadium will host a potential semi-final. 

RLWC Wheelchair Competition

As much as the 2021 Rugby League World Cup is the pinnacle event for any fan of the game, in 2021 it will also be Inspirational. The inclusion of a disabled wheelchair event is going to allow participation for all willing athletes.

INSPIRATION FOR EVERYONE. ACTIVITY FOR ALL – rlwc mission statement.

The competing wheelchair teams will play at a range of different venues, where facilities and coverage will help to inspire those who may be bound to a wheelchair, but can be inspired by the men and women who will face each other in competition. 

  • The Copper Box in London, with a capacity of 7,500, will host group games. This venue hosted events at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games. 
  • In addition, EIS Sheffield will host both semi-finals and a group stage pool games, and is new venue for the teams. 
  • In the event England reach the final they will be playing for the trophy at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool.  

Potential young England stars to watch

Young stars could force their way into the reckoning, with two years until the World Cup. Casting an eye over the Super League and Championship, Sam Harris picks out some potential superstars in the making. 

Jack Walker

The Leeds Rhinos star is only 19 and is their starting fullback this season. He has already played 36 matches for the Leeds Rhinos including the 2017 Grand Final.

The youngster also toured Papua New Guinea with the England Knights, last summer. Walker could have earned his place in the senior team by 2021, and may be in a squad along with Warrington’s Stefan Ratchford, who at 32 years of age at the time of the World Cup, could be a mentor for Walker and other young stars. 

Walker’s fiercest rival for a place in the future RLWC squad is Jonny Lomax (the St Helens fullback) could be his main rival for a starting berth, unless selected in the halves. 

Jake Trueman

Due to injury, someone who did not tour with the Knights, was the Bradford-born youngster. Also only 19, Trueman has played at fullback, scrum-half and hooker for Castleford Tigers.

He scored a hat-trick on his Super League debut against Wigan Warriors in 2017.

Trueman gained valuable experience last season – winning the Young Player of the Year awared – and could have an outstanding career ahead of him.

With Warrington’s Kevin Brown retired and Jake Connor preferred at centre, Trueman could have an opportunity to play. 

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With two years before the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, any number of new names could step-up and claim a position in the England team. Across all the participating nations – who will go through a tough qualifying process, leading up to 2021 – all players look at the RLWC with much anticipation. Australia was a success for many developing nations, most notably Tonga.

That excitement could again be seen at hosting stadiums across Britain. The colour and spectacle is something to look forward to, with tickets planned to go on sale in late 2020.

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