Liverpool and St Helens will welcome the Tonga and Italy men’s national teams next year as part of their host status roles at the Rugby League World Cup.
In May 2019, it was revealed that Liverpool and St Helens had both been selected as host locations for nations set to compete at the 2021 world cup, who today (Wednesday 10 June) – 500 days until the start of the tournament – have been confirmed as Tonga and Italy, ranked 4th and 13th in the world respectively.
The teams will stay in Liverpool during their time in England where they will experience the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Waterfront along with many other attractions – while they will prepare for matches in St Helens, using St Helens Council’s £3.6m state-of-the art Ruskin Drive Sports Village; Cowley International College; and the new fitness suite at Newton-le-Willows Health and Fitness.
As well as hosting the two teams for accommodation and training purposes, Liverpool and St Helens will also stage matches at the Rugby League World Cup, with St Helens R.F.C.’s 18,000 capacity Totally Wicked Stadium, considered by many to be the best purpose-built club rugby stadium in the country – chosen for two men’s matches – and Anfield, home to football giant Liverpool FC, hosting both a men’s quarter-final and the opening match and ceremony for the women’s tournament.
Meanwhile, the M&S Bank Arena, located on the banks of the River Mersey, will showcase the final of the wheelchair competition, new to next year’s event.
The overall impact of Liverpool and St Helens’ involvement in the Rugby League World Cup, tipped to be the biggest and best one to date, is expected to boost the local economy by millions of pounds and will benefit the grassroots game through a number of legacy projects.
To be held in England in the October and November, organisers are aiming to draw in record crowds at the 2021 tournament, with the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions staged in a single, celebratory event – making it the biggest Rugby League World Cup yet.
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Jon Dutton, RLWC2021 Chief Executive, said:
“Today marks another hugely exciting milestone on the road to Rugby League World Cup 2021 as we celebrate 500 days until the opening fixture at St James’ Park in October next year.
“Liverpool and St Helens will play a huge part in RLWC2021, with Anfield hosting a men’s quarter-final, along with an England women’s fixture, while the M&S Bank Arena will host the wheelchair Rugby League final. St Helens’ brilliant stadium will play host to three men’s group fixtures, and now with confirmation that Tonga and Italy will be based in Liverpool and St Helens, these dedicated and passionate fans have another reason to get excited about RLWC2021.
“Our refreshed tournament identity and today’s nation base announcement can serve as an exciting reminder for the people of Liverpool and St Helens of what’s to come in 2021 as we continue to build momentum towards what promises to be the biggest and best Rugby League World Cup in history.”
Liverpool’s Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member responsible for sport, Councillor Wendy Simon, said:
“We look forward to giving the Tonga and Italy teams a warm Liverpool welcome in 2021.
“It’s an opportunity for us to also showcase not only our incredible sporting venues, but also the many sights which attract millions of visitors to the city each year – and we’ll be going all out to offer the organisers, teams and fans a truly exciting and unforgettable experience.
“Hosting sporting events of this calibre in the city is a huge boost – not only to the local economy but also to the pride it engenders in people who live here.
“For many, it’s a huge coup to have these major activities taking place on their doorsteps and without doubt, it raises the city’s profile and helps maintain Liverpool’s reputation as one of the leading cities in Europe when it comes to staging events.”
St Helens Council leader, David Baines, said:
“The Rugby League World Cup is going to a be a sensational event and we’re very much looking forward to welcoming Tonga and Italy to St Helens. I know that the players, staff and fans will get a very warm welcome from everyone in the borough.
“The teams can also rest assured that their match preparations could not be better placed when they visit Ruskin Drive Sports Ground – one of the finest multi-purpose sports complexes in the region; Cowley, where some of rugby league’s biggest stars train day in, day out; and the recently redeveloped Newton-le-Willows Health and Fitness, a top class, state of the art facility. And of course, the world class Totally Wicked Stadium will host three men’s group games. There’s no better club rugby stadium in the country.
“For St Helens Borough to be chosen to be part of a global celebration of rugby league speaks volumes of the borough’s proud past and achievements in the sport. We proved during the last World Cup back in 2013 how welcoming our borough is, and we’re more than ready to do it all again.”