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Rugby League World Cup 2021: Exciting, Massive, and Inclusive

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Rudie Venter
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It was a truly unbelievable moment in sports when the Rugby League announced that, for the first time in history, the men’s, women’s and wheelchair games will all be played together on one stage at the World Cup in England in 2021.

The new format will ensure greater inclusivity, with men, women, and wheelchair tournaments taking place concurrently.

This is the first time that a Physical Disability Rugby League World Cup will take place. It is also a watershed moment for the women’s rugby, as all the matches will be broadcast live and projected across the world.

All in all, England 2021 will see eighteen teams (up from 16 in the last two tournaments) compete over several weeks, culminating in an exciting, ground-breaking weekend. For the very first time in history, Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair winners will be crowned Rugby League World Cup Champions in one massive, all-inclusive event!

It’s what the Rugby League calls ‘The Power of Together’.

Rugby League World Cup Schedule

All 61 matches scheduled for the Men’s, Women’s, and Wheelchair tournaments will take place between October 23rd and November 27th, 2021 in the United Kingdom.

The full list of venues to be used for the three tournaments (ie. Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair) was announced early last year and can be found at this link: https://www.rlwc2021.com/

Host cities include:

• Newcastle
• Hull
• Leeds
• Warrington,
• St Helens
• Leigh
• Coventry
• Bolton
• Doncaster
• Sheffield
• Middlesbrough
• York
• London
• Huddersfield
• Liverpool
• Manchester

The Wheelchair Final will take place at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool at 7.30 pm on November, 26th, 2021.

The Women’s Final will take place at Old Trafford in Manchester, on Saturday, November 27th at 2.15 pm.

The Men’s Final is also scheduled for Old Trafford in Manchester at 5 pm on November 27th.

The Wheelchair Tournament

For the first time in the history of rugby, a wheelchair competition will be part of the Rugby League World Cup main event, proving that this is truly an inclusive game for all. The wheelchair competition will be part of the same brand and have the same profile and level of support as the Men’s and Women’s events.

What makes this competition even more unique is that it’s not only limited to people with a disability. Able-bodied people – men and women – are welcome to compete in a wheelchair on the same team.

The Wheelchair Group Stages will begin on November 11th, with eight teams competing, namely England, Australia, Spain, and Norway (Group A) and France, Wales, Scotland, and USA (Group B).

The top four teams from the group stage will compete for a place in the final as part of the Finals Weekend, alongside the Men’s and Women’s Finals.

The Women’s Tournament

The Rugby League calls this a “watershed moment” for the women’s game, with plans for every single match to be broadcast live on BBC platforms. An entirely new generation of players will get to watch professional-level women’s rugby from all over the globe. The hope is that it will inspire young women from all over the world to take an interest in rugby – either as players or spectators.

Eight teams will compete over 18 days, with the opening match taking place at Emerald Headingley Stadium on November 9th between England and Brazil.

The qualifying teams in the Women’s Tournament are:

England, Papua New Guinea, Canada, and Brazil (Group A) and Australia, New Zealand, France, and Cook Islands (Group B).

The top four teams from the group stage will compete for a place in the final, starting November 22nd, 2021.

The Men’s Tournament

The Rugby League Men’s World Cup is considered a pinnacle event in international rugby. More teams than ever will compete in 2021, with four pools of four nations competing across England. The winner will be declared Rugby League World Cup Champions.

Automatic qualification was given to all quarter-finals from the Rugby League Men’s World Cup that took place in 2017. The remaining 8 nations were decided by a qualification process, which was based on global regions.

The opening match will take place between England and Samoa at St. James Park in Newcastle on October 23rd, 2021.

The four groups in the Men’s Tournament are as follows:

Group A: England, Samoa, France, Greece
Group B: Australia, Fiji, Scotland, Italy
Group C: New Zealand, Lebanon, Jamaica, Ireland
Group D: Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Wales, Cook Islands

The men will fight it out across 31 matches, before the semifinals begin on November 18th.

Rugby League World Cup 2021 Will Set Far-Reaching Trends

The organizers of next year’s competition believe that the tournament will be the biggest and best-staged competition in its 67-year history. The plans to involve the Women’s and Wheelchair tournaments at an equal level and run them simultaneously for the first time is a transformative moment for rugby in particular, and sport in general.

With every single game going live on the BBC in England, and many of them projected on the global stage, the opportunity exists to interact with more audience members on more continents than ever before exists.

It won’t come as a surprise if other major sports, such as soccer, follow suit and give their own voice to the meaning of exclusivity in the near future.

The Rugby League’s decision to do things so dramatically different from former years deserves a standing ovation. Its decision was reached long before COVID-19 changed the way sports are played, watched, and bet on. But if the virus has taught us anything, it is that we should be flexible in the way we think about things, including sports. Including ‘alternative’ teams and competitions on the same center stage as the traditional, money-spinning teams is a fantastic step in the right direction, and we hope that this is just the start of things to come.

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Rudie Venter
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