The Rugby Football League will push ahead with plans to bid for the 2021 World Cup after receiving a Government pledge to provide £15m in funding.
The governing body have estimated it will cost £42m to host the event and believe they can deliver a £74.6m boost to the economy.
But the RFL expect to face competition from South Africa and the United States
“I am proud to present the English bid,” RFL chairman Brian Barwick told a news conference at the launch at Old Trafford.
“The Rugby League World Cup 2021 provides an ideal opportunity for the nation to demonstrate again to a global audience its ability to stage a world-class sporting event we all can be proud of.”
The host nation for the 2021 tournament, which will grow in size to 16 teams and 31 games, will be decided by the Rugby League International Federation in the autumn.
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport John Whittingdale MP said: “The UK is proud to have delivered some of the most memorable major sporting events in recent history including the hugely successful 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
“We now want to build on the success of 2013 by hosting the competition once again in 2021.
“The Government’s support for the RFL’s bid will help put on a larger tournament that not only brings economic benefits to host towns and cities in rugby league’s heartland, but promotes the sport to a wider audience both nationally and around the world.”
The RFL say the aim is to double up on the success of the 2013 tournament held in England and Wales that made a profit of around £4m after drawing an aggregate crowd of 458,463, including an international record attendance of 74,468 for the final between Australia and New Zealand at Old Trafford.
They say they will aim to make 2021 the biggest and most watched tournament in the sport’s history by targeting one million spectators.
If the bid is successful, 12 stadiums across the country will be selected from a shortlist that will include a variety of rugby league stadiums and a number of other sporting venues such as Old Trafford, the Etihad Stadium, St James’ Park and Wembley.
The RFL expect to find out from the Rugby League International Federation during the 2016 Four Nations Series this autumn if their bid has been successful.
“Our job was to put together the most compelling bid,” said tournament director Jon Dutton.
“The International Federation has said they have had expressions of interest from the USA and South Africa so we wait for them to tell us who we are up against.
“We have put an awful lot of work into the bid and we’re confident but not complacent.”
Having set a target of achieving a live audience of one million for the 16th World Cup, RFL chief executive Nigel Wood said: “I think that’s a realistic target if we want it to be considered a mega-event.
“I think 2013 took a lot of people by surprise and most people had pretty modest expectations, but that is no longer an acceptable position. We need to hold it up against the best events around the planet.
“If we can achieve a million spectators, it would be a breakthrough for the sport.”
Meanwhile, the RFL have secured an additional £10m from the Government to enable them to open a national centre for the sport.
“Rugby league still doesn’t have a national home,” said Wood. “We have three facilities – in Leeds, Manchester and an office in London – but we would like a true national home of the sport where rugby league is properly represented.
“I would hope we could do that within around three years.”
The 2017 World Cup will be held in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.