Upfront: The League Express opinion – Mon 22nd Nov 2021
It’s been tough for Rugby League fans to watch the rugby union teams of Australia and New Zealand playing in the Northern Hemisphere in recent weeks and not wonder: What might have been?
Of course, under its original schedule, this week we would have been reflecting on the World Cup semis and looking forward to the finals of the wheelchair competition on Friday and the men’s and women’s at Old Trafford on Saturday.
But the withdrawal of the Aussies and the Kiwis, who cited safety concerns amid the pandemic, meant the huge decision to postpone the tournament was taken back in August.
While many were wondering why the union teams felt able to visit while their league counterparts didn’t, World Cup chief executive Jon Dutton and his ever-energetic team cracked on with the major and unenviable task of rearranging the event for Autumn 2022.
The fruits of their labours became clear on Friday, when the new schedule was revealed, with the World Cup now starting on Saturday, October 15, when England’s men face Samoa at St James’ Park and Australia take on Fiji at Headingley.
The latter game was originally due to be at Hull, with the MKM Stadium now staging the Saturday, October 22 clash between New Zealand and Jamaica instead of Leeds – a straight swap.
The only other venue changes are the switch away from Liverpool for the second men’s quarter-final, which will be staged alongside the England-Canada women’s game at Wigan, not Anfield, on Saturday, November 5, and the wheelchair final, which will now be in Manchester, not on Merseyside, the evening before the men’s and women’s final double-header at Old Trafford on Saturday, November 19.
That’s two days before that kick-off of football’s World Cup in Qatar, and it’s eminently sensible that the two events don’t clash, particularly given the BBC’s involvement in covering all the matches on these shores.
Both holders Australia and New Zealand are locked into competing next year, and fingers crossed there will be no further bumps in the road.
It won’t be just League Express hoping that’s also the case for Kevin Sinfield as he embarks on his epic ‘Extra Mile’ mission of running the 101 miles between Leicester, where he know works, and his old stomping ground of Leeds to raise money for motor neurone disease research.
It’s the latest superhuman challenge taken on by Sinfield in support of his former Rhinos team-mate and close friend Rob Burrow.
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.