Tournament organisers have unveiled plans to make the 2021 World Cup the biggest and most exciting in rugby league history.
The action takes place in northern England and it aims to build on the success of the 2017 showpiece, held in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. That tournament earned plaudits across the board for its competitiveness, the atmosphere inside the stadiums and the way it broadened the game’s global fan base.
It has laid down a tough gauntlet for the English to follow, but director Jon Dutton reckons he is more than up to the task.
“We have received a significant amount of funding from the government and are really privileged to be in that position, but with that comes challenge and rigour,” he told SportsPro.
“We’ve set out our vision and we’ll make sure we work really hard to deliver that, and that’s absolutely right. The only way to do it is to be different, be credible, start early, learn lessons from people and seize every opportunity.
“The UK is a wonderful destination to stage a major sporting event. We’ve got a really clear idea of what we want to deliver, obviously we just need to make sure we move with the times and come 2021 are delivering something of the highest order.”
It will be the sixth World Cup to be staged in England, following the 2013 event. Dutton is hoping to see pulsating stadia that are packed to the rafters, allowing fans new and old to enjoy a world-class experience.
But does the home team stand a chance of winning? Australia have won the last two World Cups in style, but the English gave them a decent battle in last year’s final. It finished 6-0 and England can take a lot of heart from their performance, but Australia are clearly blessed with a far better team, packed with more world-class players.
Three years sounds like a long time to make up the gap, but that will fly by. If you read a review of the world’s best betting websites and find market-leading odds, you will always see Australia as the favourites heading into any rugby league contest.
They have won eight of the last 10 World Cups, and the NRL is the strongest league in the world by a considerable distance. Australia has better youngsters and by 20121 it will still have the world’s best team.
England will probably have to rely on passionate home support, ferocious battling qualities and a slice of good fortune if they are to seize glory on their home turf.
But the gap could well be closed a little further down the line, after the English Government pledged to invest a record £10 million in grassroots development. It is part of Sport England’s Inspired by 2021 legacy programme and the funding will be split between large transformational community projects and smaller-scale initiatives that cultivate the local game. It will probably take a decade or so for the national team to benefit from the investment, but it points to the very real prospect of England catching up with Australia in the not too distant future.
“We are proud to be working in partnership to deliver the biggest government investment into grassroots rugby league facilities the country has ever seen,” property director at Sport England Charles Johnston told rlwc.com.
“With this funding, communities will gain better access to the facilities, improved infrastructure and essential equipment they need to be active.”
Dutton added that he is “confident that this programme will target the right areas and affect real change”, and it should lead to an exciting new crop of English players emerging in time for the 2029 World Cup.
Either way, the 2021 tournament is shaping up to be a glorious event and excitement will continue to mount as it draws closer. Qualifying is already underway, as Czech Republic beat Norway and Ukraine got the better of Malta, while there are some intriguing games looming in October.
That will ensure plenty of action in the build-up to what promises to be the slickest World Cup yet.