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Rugby League World Cup to return to England in 2021, North America set for 2025 edition

England has been confirmed as the host of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, while the 2025 edition of the national team tournament is set to be held in the US and Canada after the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) said it would recommend to Congress a joint staging of the event by the two North American countries.

England fought off competition from the US and Canada to stage the 2021 event. It will also host the women’s and wheelchair editions of the tournament in five years’ time.

The RLIF said that England scored heavily in respect of its supporter base and UK government support, as well as in areas including visas, security, international development and event promotion. The UK government is set to provide £15m (€16.8m/$18.4m) in funding for the event, and a further £10m to support rugby league infrastructure.

The RLIF commended the US and Canada’s bid but said that England was primarily handed the tournament due to “current rugby league participation numbers in North America.”

“The news today that England has won the right to host the Rugby League World Cup in 2021 is transformative for our sport,” Brian Barwick, chairman of the Rugby Football League, which governs the sport in England, said. “Our commitment to grow the game internationally, attract more spectators than ever before and put on the biggest and best event in the sport’s history has clearly been recognised by the RLIF.

“With a sold-out game between England and New Zealand this weekend in the Ladbrokes Four Nations it is clear that there is a real passion for international rugby league in this country. The UK has a proud reputation for delivering world-class sporting events and the Rugby League World Cup in 2021 will round off an incredible decade of major events in our country that began with the London Olympics in 2012. The hard work starts now, but we are confident that we can deliver.”

Moore Sports International, an Australian sports agency, headed the North American bid, which was praised for its aim to extend the global reach of rugby league as well as its marketing, commercial support and innovation.

The RLIF board made the decision to recommend to Congress next month that the 2025 World Cup be staged in the US and Canada. Subject to further evaluation, an inter-nations competition will be played in North America some time between 2021 and 2025.

RLIF chief executive David Collier said: “The MSI USA/Canada bid provided the RLIF with an unprecedented opportunity to take rugby league’s pinnacle event, the World Cup, to the commercially lucrative and passionate sports audience of North America. As outlined in the bid presentation, significant opportunities with regards to rugby league development at both the elite level and even more extensively at the junior levels of the game, gave MSI USA/Canada’s bid extremely compelling qualities.

“The bid process was highly competitive and the board was very impressed by the MSI USA/Canada bid which was of the highest quality. The RLIF sees a great future for the sport in North America and has recommended that discussions with MSI are expedited to bring professional rugby league to North America as well as future international tournaments. Those discussions are being progressed with MSI USA/Canada and a report will be presented to Congress which will be held on November 19 this year.”

England co-hosted the most recent edition of the Rugby League World Cup in 2013 alongside Wales, Ireland and France. The 2017 event will be held in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea from October 26 to December 2.