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The 2021 Rugby League World Cup will be the sixteenth staging of the Rugby League World Cup and will be held in England between 23 October 2021 and 27 November 2021. The tournament will include 16 teams, an increase of two from the last two tournaments.[1]

2021 (2021) World Cup  ()
2021 Rugby League World Cup.png
Number of teams16
Host country England
Matches played31
 < 2017

On 27 October 2016, it was confirmed that England won the hosting rights for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.[2]

Host selectionEdit

There were initially three bids for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup but the United Arab Emirates bid[3] had to be cancelled due to the arrest of Sol Mokdad following a complaint from UAE rugby union officials.[4]

England, and the United States and Canada were the two remaining bidders of the event. The English RFL received U.K. government support - £15 million to enhance the tournament and up to a further £10 million into the game's infrastructure - for the event to be staged in the country. The RFL mentioned they wanted the event to be the most attended in history with over 1,000,000 people attending the grounds over the tournament’s days. They were also planning to use 12 venues for the event which included non-purpose and rugby league-purpose stadiums.[5]

The United States and Canada bid was initially a sole United States bid from an Australian sports marketing agency, Moore Sports International (MSI). Jason Moore of MSI stated that rugby league has a strong following in several US markets and that fans new to rugby league and "who have a hunger for gladiatorial-style sports are going to fall in love with this extraordinary game".[6] Eight to ten cities, featuring venues from either the NFL or MLS, were planned for the event, offering Rugby League International Federation the opportunity to stage the tournament outside of Europe and Australasia for the first time.[7] Canada Rugby League later announced they wanted to be a part of the United States bid stating that the cities of Vancouver and Toronto could also potentially host matches.[8]

On 27 October 2016, RLIF announced that England had won hosting rights for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.[9] To avoid a conflict of interest, RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood, who is chairman of the RLIF, and RFL Chairman Brian Barwick, a fellow RLIF board member, did not take part in the decision-making process.[10]


The eight quarter-finalists of the previous tournament in 2017 earned automatic qualification to the 2021 tournament. As such, the allocations were confirmed as 6 teams from Europe (excluding hosts), 6 from Asia-Pacific, 1 from Middle East/Africa, 1 from the Americas, and 1 from an intercontinental play-off.[11] Qualification began in earnest on 16 June 2018, and will conclude on 16 November 2019.

Qualified teamsEdit

Region Team Qualification
Previous best result World
Americas   Jamaica Americas winner 0 Debut 14
Asia-Pacific   Australia Automatic 15 Champions (1957, 1968, 1970, 1975, 1977, 1985–88, 1989–92, 1995, 2000, 2013, 2017) 1
  Fiji Automatic 5 Semi-finals (2008, 2013, 2017) 5
  Tonga Automatic 5 Semi-finals (2017) 4
  New Zealand Automatic 15 Champions (2008) 3
  Papua New Guinea Automatic 7 Quarter-finals (2000, 2017) 10
  Samoa Automatic 5 Quarter-finals (2000, 2013, 2017) 7
Europe   England[a] Hosts 6 Runners-up (1975, 1995, 2017) 2
  France European winners 15 Runners-up (1954, 1968) 6
  Wales[a] European runners-up 5 Semi-finals (1995, 2000) 11
Europe play-off 1
Europe play-off 2
Europe play-off 3
Europe play-off 4
Middle East-Africa   Lebanon Automatic 2 Quarter-finals (2017) 9
TBA Repechage play-off
  1. ^ a b Competed as part of   Great Britain in nine previous tournaments, finishing as champions on three occasions (1954, 1960, 1972). The squads largely consisted of English players, but also featured Welsh players in every tournament. Scotland (1954, 1968, 1977, 1989–92) and Ireland (1957) were represented by native-born players in some tournaments.


The full list of 21 venues to be used for the three tournaments (men's, women's and wheelchair) was announced on 29 January 2019.[12] Eighteen venues will be used for the men's tournament and in addition Preston was announced as a training venue for the tournaments.[12] The use of the as-yet unbuilt Workington Community Stadium as a venue was thrown into doubt after the 2019 Allerdale Borough Council election when control of the council changed and the new council showed less enthusiasm for the new stadium project.[13] In early July 2019 Allerdale Council confirmed that they would be unable to host any matches in the tournament. The tournament organisers responded that the three group matches planned for Workington would be re-allocated.[14] On 28 August 2019 it was announced that Kingston Park in Newcastle upon Tyne would host the three games originally planned to take place in Workington.[15]

Manchester London Liverpool Newcastle Leeds
Old Trafford Emirates Stadium Anfield St James' Park Elland Road
Capacity: 74,994 Capacity: 60,260 Capacity: 54,074 Capacity: 52,405 Capacity: 37,890
Stadiums in Greater Manchester
Riverside Stadium Bramall Lane
Capacity: 34,742 Capacity: 32,702
Coventry Bolton
Ricoh Arena University of Bolton Stadium
Capacity: 32,609 Capacity: 28,723
Hull Huddersfield
KCOM Stadium Kirklees Stadium
Capacity: 25,586 Capacity: 24,500
Leeds St Helens Doncaster Warrington Leigh
Headingley Stadium Totally Wicked Stadium Keepmoat Stadium Halliwell Jones Stadium Leigh Sports Village
Capacity: 21,062 Capacity: 18,000 Capacity: 15,231 Capacity: 15,200 Capacity: 12,000
York Community Stadium
Capacity: 8,005 (proposed)

Opening ceremonyEdit

The men's tournament opening ceremony will take place at St James' Park in Newcastle on 23 October 2021.[16][17]


The draw will be finalised on 27 November 2019, exactly two years before the tournament final will be played. Teams from the same pot will not feature within the same pool.[18]

Pot 1 Pot 2 Pot 3 Pot 4
  New Zealand
  Papua New Guinea
Europe 3
Europe 4
Europe 5
Europe 6


Country Broadcaster Matches
  England BBC All 31 matches live, 16 matches on BBC1 or BBC2, Venue launch program[19] and highlights program[20]
  United Kingdom OurLeague App All 31 matches live, exclusive post match interviews and OuRLeague highlights program.[21][22]
  United Kingdom RugbyAM (FreeSports) Highlights program and post match interviews.

InspirationALL legacy projectEdit

The 2021 Rugby League World Cup commenced a legacy project called InspirationALL in 2018.[23]

Partnership with UNICEFEdit

On 19 June 2019 the RLWC announced that UNICEF would become the official tournament charity and the patnership will be used to raise funds for children both in the United Kingdon and internationally.[24]

In addition to the general promotion of the charity at matches and events, the RLWC Chief Executive has also stated that there will be an officially designated UNICEF game at some point during the men's world cup tournament.[citation needed]

Festival of Rugby League World CupsEdit

In 2019 it was announced that the RLWC contacted Rugby League governing bodies across the world regarding a 'Festival of World Cups'. Organisers have stated the festival of world cups will take place in the summer of 2021, before the commencement of the Mens, Women's, and Wheelchair tournaments, taking place in the autumn of 2021.[25]

Previous RLWC tournaments have also hosted a Festival of World Cups, which have historically included a University World Cup, Police World Cup, and a Defence Forces World Cup. 2021 is expected to include an emerging nations tournament for both men and women.

Physical Disability Rugby League World CupEdit

The Physical Disability Rugby League World Cup will be the first of its kind and take place in Warrington.[26][27]

Digital strategyEdit

In May 2019 the RLWC organisers announced they were looking for an esport partner as they believe it will engage new audiences with the sport[28] The digital strategy for the tournament will be led by Deloitte.[29]


  1. ^ "Rugby League World Cup to feature 16 teams in 2021". Sky Sports. 2 February 2016. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  2. ^ "Rugby League World Cup 2021: England chosen as hosts ahead of US & Canada". BBC. 27 October 2016. Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  3. ^ "UAE plans bid to host the 2021 Rugby League World Cup". skySports. 18 April 2015. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  4. ^ "Sol Mokdad issues public apology to UAE Rugby Federation to end criminal proceedings against him". TheNational. 25 May 2015. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  5. ^ "England to bid for 2021 Rugby League World Cup". skySports. 30 June 2016. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  6. ^ Caldwell, Dave (1 August 2016). "Plan Seeks to Aid Rugby's Growth With a Global Event on U.S. Soil". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  7. ^ "USA submit bid to host 2021 Rugby League World Cup". 3 August 2016. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  8. ^ "Vancouver — and Canada — aiming to be part of 2021 Rugby League World Cup bid". TheProvince. 16 September 2016. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  9. ^ "England to host RLWC2021 - North America recommended for RLWC2025". Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  10. ^ "England beat USA to host Rugby League World Cup in 2021". Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  11. ^ "Statement from the RLIF Board meeting - March 28th 2017". Retrieved 3 October 2017.
  12. ^ a b "2021 Rugby League World Cup: Emirates Stadium among host venues but Wigan misses out". BBC Sport. 29 January 2019. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  13. ^ "Rugby League World Cup boss offers fresh hope to supporters of Workington shared stadium plan". Times & Star. 18 June 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  14. ^ "Allerdale Council pulls out of World Cup". Total RL. 4 July 2019. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
  15. ^ Knight, Chris (28 August 2019). "Kingston Park Stadium to host Rugby League World Cup 2021 games". Evening Chronicle. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  16. ^ Seddon, Sean (29 January 2019). "Newcastle to host Rugby League World Cup 2021 opening ceremony and game". nechronicle.
  17. ^ "Newcastle to host 2021 Rugby League World Cup". Newcastle United Football Club.
  18. ^ "More countries to play in 2021 Rugby League World Cup". Daily Telegraph. 13 November 2018. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  19. ^ "2021 Rugby League World Cup: Venues to be named live on the BBC". 25 January 2019 – via
  20. ^ "Rugby League World Cup 2021: BBC secures rights to broadcast all 31 games". 26 January 2017. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
  21. ^ "Our League". App Store.
  22. ^ "Our League – Apps on Google Play".
  23. ^ "Rugby League World Cup 2021".
  24. ^ News, Melanie May on 29 June 2018 in (29 June 2018). "Rugby League World Cup 2021 partners with Unicef UK". UK Fundraising. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  25. ^ "Record numbers for Rugby League Festival of World Cups 2021". 13 September 2019. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  26. ^ Council, Warrington Borough. "Rugby League World Cup 2021".
  27. ^ "Warrington Chosen As 2021 Rugby League World Cup Venue". Wire FM.
  28. ^ Corking, Graham (24 May 2019). "Rugby League World Cup 2021 search for esports partner".
  29. ^ "Deloitte's RLWC digital goal". 30 April 2019.

External linksEdit