World Cup boss aims for a Rugby League golden age

The man in charge of the 2021 World Cup believes the international game is in a golden age, but he stresses the importance of playing as many games as possible in the run-up to the tournament to meet the event’s ambitious targets.

Jon Dutton is hoping to sell 750,000 tickets for the tournament to be played in England in two years’ time, with a ballot for the general public set to open next year for the tournament’s big games.

And Dutton says that with the World Cup now approaching fast, it is vital the sport makes the most of recent results such as Tonga defeating Australia.

“International Rugby League is not played enough, for understandable reasons, but it has just gone through a golden period,” he insists.

“If you put Great Britain aside, Tonga beating Australia is a seminal moment. Then there’s PNG beating Great Britain and Greece coming through. We’re in a period where international Rugby League has been amplified, but our job is to take it to the next level.

“The conversation around more games is for clubs and nations, that’s that not for us. We want to make sure we provide the perfect platform.”

Dutton, however, does stress the importance of events such as next year’s Ashes series being as successful as possible to attract new viewers and event-goers to the World Cup.

“People may say that a weak spot with the World Cup has been the quarter-finals, because there’s not been enough strength, but if you look now at our top eight, there’s huge competition,” he said.

“We’ve still got two years to go too. We were involved with the RFL and ARL deal in securing the Test series next year, because we believe it’s pivotal we have on-field, competitive international Rugby League being played on the BBC. We can then say to people that if you’ve never seen it before and you like it, there’s a home World Cup for you next year.”

The draw for the tournament will now take place in January, after Dutton and his team secured an ‘iconic venue’ for the event.

He said: “The opportunity that’s presented itself in January is fixed and too good for us to turn down. It’s about making sure Rugby League gets into places that it hasn’t been into before.”

Details about how the draw will be structured have been revealed, however.

The 16 teams will be split into four groups, from which the top two teams in each will progress to the quarter-finals. Recent editions of the tournament have seen a more complicated version of the group stage, with three teams going through some groups, and one in others.

The group stage will also feature the return of midweek games, which was a big success of the 2013 event. The teams will be in the following pots – with England, New Zealand, Australia and Tonga already pre-allocated into one group each – and one team from each pot will go into each group:

Pot 1: Fiji, Lebanon, Papua New Guinea and Samoa

Pot 2: France, Wales, Jamaica and Scotland

Pot 3: Greece, Ireland, Italy and Cook Islands

© League Express (Mon 2nd Dec 2019)