Organisers of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup have stressed the importance of growing the profile of the sport across all areas of Australia and the Oceania region after the full schedule for the national team tournament was unveiled today (Tuesday).
The tournament will take place from October 27 to December 2 next year in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. As the main host, Australia will stage 18 games, while seven will take place in New Zealand and three in Papua New Guinea under a deal first agreed in October.
The event will get underway at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on October 27 when Australia hosts England, while New Zealand begins its campaign a day later against Samoa at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium.
Papua New Guinea will play each of its three pool-stage games in the country’s capital, Port Moresby, although a venue has not yet been confirmed.
The four quarter-finals will take place from November 17-19 in Darwin, Christchurch, Wellington and Melbourne. Mt Smart Stadium will also host a semi-final along with Brisbane Stadium – the venue for the final on December 2.
Sydney, a traditional rugby league hotbed, will stage only two matches during the tournament, and they will both be pool games featuring minnows Lebanon.
“The tournament draw demonstrates how far and wide we are taking matches, from established rugby league communities, to those new and emerging fan bases in all three countries," Michael Brown, chief executive of the tournament, said.
"Over the course of the pool stages we have looked to position matches in strong rugby league communities and where large populations of ex-pats, Pacifica and indigenous fans live, to give those who love the sport and their national teams the chance to see some World Cup action.
"The decision to take matches to places like Darwin, Perth, Christchurch and Port Moresby were made with the future of the game in mind. They are matches we believe will give profile to the sport in markets that have already shown an appetite for rugby league.”
Brown added that the decision to not award Sydney games hinged on the lack of state support from the New South Wales government. “It is about the involvement of each of the governments willing to host matches and sadly that didn’t happen in NSW,” he said, according to the AAP news agency.
“But we think Lebanon is the perfect team for Sydney to host.”