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Papua New Guinea lands co-hosting rights to 2017 Rugby League World Cup

Papua New Guinea has been confirmed as a co-host of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, with the Pacific nation set to share staging rights to the national team competition with Australia and New Zealand.

The Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) announced in February 2014 that Australia and New Zealand would co-host the 2017 World Cup, with the joint bid chosen over a rival pitch from South Africa.

Papua New Guinea was first linked to assuming a role in the tournament a year ago and it was confirmed today (Thursday) that capital city Port Moresby will host three pool games. Rugby league is considered the No.1 sport in Papua New Guinea and the award of hosting rights has come after the country’s government invested A$1.4bn (€873.4m/$981.1m) into developing state-of-the-art facilities, including three new stadiums and several hotels.

“We are excited about taking the Rugby League World Cup to one of the world's most passionate rugby league nations,” 2017 World Cup chief executive Michael Brown said at a press conference in Sydney.

“Our agreement with the Papua New Guinea Government and the City of Port Moresby will see three pool matches played in Port Moresby involving their national team in front of their local fans. We welcome the support of Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and Governor of the national capital district Powes Parkop and look forward to working with them to deliver a world class event for the people of Papua New Guinea.”

In addition to the government’s infrastructure investment, Australian news agency AAP said the Papua New Guinea National Rugby League (PNGRL) has contributed A$2m to the 14-team tournament.

“The investment that the government and capital city has put in will get 10 times more back when it comes to the promotion of our city, our country and our national sport of rugby league,” Papua New Guinea’s Minister for Sports, Justin Tkatchenko, said. “We've created history here today and the stadiums will be packed at every game, probably more than here. We look forward to making this the best World Cup ever.”

Security was said to be a concern ahead of the award of the hosting rights, but Tkatchenko believes Port Moresby’s staging of the 2015 Pacific Games multi-sport event from July 4-18 proves that it can accommodate major events. He added: “Our police at the Pacific Games were unarmed. That shows the respect our people have for the uniform and the law.”

The most recent edition of the World Cup took place in England in 2013, although matches were also staged in Wales, France and Ireland.