Prince Harry lends helping hand to ensure Rugby League World Cup draw has global appeal
The Buckingham Palace venue and involvement of Prince Harry, who conducted the draw alongside Leeds-born dual-code legend Jason Robinson and multiple Olympic goal medallist Katherine Grainger, ensured the tournament attracted global headlines yesterday, for the first time in its 66-year history.
“I thought the whole event was excellent,” said Sinfield. “Having Prince Harry there and two legends in Jason Robinson and Katherine Grainger was great.
“To hold it at the Palace sets a real standard for the World Cup in 2021. I think it will be the best World Cup the sport has ever seen and the draws were great.
“Teams like Brazil, Greece, Spain and Norway are not the usual sides you see in World Cups. For them to be on the world stage and part of the rugby league World Cup shows how far we’ve come as a sport. It is really exciting for just over 18 months’ time.”
All three England teams would be happy with their draw.
The men will open the tournament against Samoa at Newcastle on Saturday, October 23 and also face France and Greece in group A.
England were seeded alongside the other semi-finalists from three years ago, Australia, New Zealand and Tonga and Sinfield admitted they could have no complaints.
“I think to start the World Cup with [England against] Samoa up at St James’s Park will be fantastic,” said the former Leeds and England captain.
“I also think to have two European nations in the group with us is pretty good.
“We’ve had some tough battles with the French in previous World Cups and they have always got an upset in them, but, hopefully, we can be good enough.
“The Greek team is completely new, they’ve never qualified before and what they’ve had to do to get to this point is remarkable.
“I’ve no doubt they will call upon some players who are eligible from different parts of the world and put a strong team together.
“It is exciting times for the sport.”
England’s women were seeded – along with Australia – and avoided big guns New Zealand, instead facing Brazil, Canada and Papua New Guinea.
The group meeting with Brazil will kick off the tournament at Leeds’s Headingley Stadium on Tuesday, November 9.
Sinfield said: “It is an international venue and to have England versus Brazil in the World Cup will be really, really special.
“They absolutely deserve everything they get, the England women, because the commitment and dedication those players put in is second to none.”
England will open the wheelchair event against Australia at the Copperbox in London on Thursday, November 11 and also face group games against Spain and Norway.
Organisers say the full schedule of matches and ticket prices will be announced “in the next few months”.
Men’s draw, 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.
Women’s draw, Group A: England, Papua New Guinea, Canada, Brazil.
Group B: Australia, New Zealand, France, Cook Islands.
Wheelchair draw, Group A: England, Australia, Spain, Norway.
Group B: France, Wales, Scotland, USA.