World Cup holders to use Leeds as base for defence

Wayne Bennett, Nathan Cayless and Stephen Kearney
Wayne Bennett, Nathan Cayless and Stephen Kearney
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World champions New Zealand will be based in Leeds for the 2013 World Cup but Headingley Carnegie has missed out on staging an England match.

The Rugby Football League yesterday published the venues for all but three of the 28 fixtures, delaying an announcement on where the semi-finals and final will be staged.

England kick off the tournament on October 26 at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium against old rivals Australia as part of a double header with joint hosts Wales, who play Italy.

Steve McNamara’s side then head for Huddersfield’s Galpharm Stadium to face Ireland before completing their Group A games against Fiji at Hull’s KC Stadium.

The top three sides go through from the group, and England, if they make their expected progress, will then play their quarter-final at either Wrexham, Wigan or Warrington.

Leeds’s Headingley Carnegie stadium will host the remaining quarter-final contest.

World champions New Zealand and Italy will adopt Leeds as their 2013 World Cup base.

Leeds was one of five Yorkshire stadiums named yesterday to host matches. As well as Huddersfield and Hull FC, Hull KR’s MS3 Craven Park will be the venue for two matches – Papua New Guinea’s Group B games with France and Samoa – and The Shay in Halifax has been selected to stage Tonga v Italy.

The Leeds World Cup Consortium, led by Leeds City Council in partnership with Leeds Rhinos and Marketing Leeds, said they were delighted to have secured two high-profile games for the city.

Cllr Adam Ogilive, executive board member for leisure and chair of the Leeds World Cup Consortium, said: “New Zealand are the reigning world champions and a real superpower of rugby league, so we are really proud that they will be here using the fantastic facilities that we have to offer in the city, and particularly at the John Charles Centre for Sport.

“Our city is passionate about sport and particularly rugby league, and these high-profile games will create a real buzz for residents and businesses. I am confident that the people of Leeds will get behind our adopted nation, as well as our national side of course, and help to make this tournament a real success.”

Yesterday saw the West Yorkshire club celebrate news of the city hosting New Zealand with a Haka, performed by local schoolchildren on the Headingley pitch. Rhinos’ Kiwi star Brent Webb had intended to lead them but had to pull out due to illness.

“Headingley Carnegie Stadium has a proud tradition of hosting New Zealand sides down the years going right back to the first international tour from the New Zealand All Golds when Great Britain played their first ever Test match at Headingley in January 1908,” said Gary Hetherington, chief executive of Leeds Rugby.

“We have had many Kiwis who have called Leeds their home since then including members of the current Rhinos team.

“We are delighted and honoured to host the world champions and also excited to welcome the proud rugby league nation of Papua New Guinea to Headingley Carnegie.”

Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott added: “It’s brilliant, it will be a fantastic occasion, the World Cup. To have the world champions on our doorstep is an added bonus.

“Part of the awarding of these World Cup games to Headingley is down to the success we had in the World Club Challenge game against Manly. Not so much the result of the game, but the success of packing the stadium out and what a great event it was.”

Wembley is thought to be favourite to host both semi-finals on the weekend of November 23-24, with the final a week later set to go to Old Trafford, but tournament director Richard Lewis hinted at a late entrant to the bidding process in explaining the “slight delay”.

“For entirely positive reasons, we decided to concentrate on announcing the opening ceremony and double header in Cardiff, which is fabulous news,” Lewis said.

“We know where we’re at with the tournament. The process has been going for 12 months and we’re pleased with where we’re at.

“We’re in a really good position. We run a very competitive process.

“We’re going to be announcing the venues for the semi-finals and final very soon.”

Carwyn Jones, the Welsh Government’s First Minister, joined Lewis at a press conference at the Millennium Stadium yesterday to unveil 19 of the venues across England, Wales, Ireland and France.

Lewis confidently expects a bumper crowd for the opening games after a disappointing attendance of 17,612 watched a double header at the Millennium Stadium during the 2000 World Cup, highlighted by Wales’ encounter with New Zealand.

Lewis, who joined the RFL in 2002, describes comparisons with the 2000 World Cup as “chalk and cheese”, pointing to the 60,000-plus crowds attracted to Cardiff since then for the Magic Weekend Super League fixtures and Challenge Cup finals.

“They have good memories of Magic and the Challenge Cup final was sold out here,” he said. “We’ve got a good track record down here with major matches. We also expect a lot of people to see rugby league for the first time.”

The tournament hits the road with Limerick’s Thomond Park in Ireland hosting Australia v Ireland and France playing New Zealand in Avignon and Samoa in Perpignan.