VENUES as diverse as Coventry, Liverpool and Workington will host games in the Four Nations as the itinerary for the competition was finally confirmed yesterday.
England’s opening game will be on familiar soil as they host New Zealand at John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield – the birthplace of the sport – on Saturday, October 29.
However, thereafter, there are some fresh staging posts for international rugby league in a bold format from organisers.
Anfield, home of the world famous and iconic Liverpool FC, will host the Four Nations final on Sunday, November 20 (2.30pm) in a significant departure from the norm.
The last time it hosted a rugby league game was in 1997 when St Helens moved their Super League fixture against Castleford to the ground and Wigan’s 1991 World Club Challenge game against Penrith Panthers also took place at the Merseyside venue, which now holds 45,000.
Furthermore, the RFL will look to build on the work of Coventry Bears, formed in 1998 who have had a side in League 1 now for the last two years, with the city staging its first international game when England meet Scotland on Saturday, November 5 (5.30pm).
Not only that, however, but the Ricoh Arena, a 32,609 capacity stadium and also home of Coventry City FC, will host a double-header given world champions Australia also play New Zealand on the same evening (8pm).
Yorkshire has two chances to showcase the world’s best players given the tournament also starts in the Broad Acres when Australia take on Scotland at Hull FC’s KC Lightstream Stadium on Friday, October 28 (8pm).
Workington, such great hosts during the 2013 World Cup, are rewarded again with the New Zealand v Scotland fixture on Friday, November 11 (8pm) before England face Australia on Sunday, November 13 (3.30pm) at London’s Olympic Park.
There has been an interminable length of time before yesterday’s announcement – some details of the 2017 World Cup were already known before this – and it seems odd the organisers have taken so long to make it public.
Moreover, England were on a high after defeating the world No 1 Kiwis last November – a first series win in eight years – and they may have missed an opportunity to capitalise on that feat.
That said, with new England coach Wayne Bennett, the revered Australian, taking the helm for the first time, and Sam Burgess’s hopeful return to his national side, there should still be plenty of interest in the tournament as the hosts look to win a first major tournament since 1972.
Bennett said: “I’m excited to begin work with this England team. The venues selected for our games in the Four Nations tournament are world- class and I hope that the English fans will be out in force to support us and that we can do them proud on the field.”
Four Nations tournament director Jon Dutton said: “We are delighted with the venues selected and we are sure that the tournament will deliver compelling and memorable action. Anfield is an iconic sporting venue and I am certain all teams will be determined to reach the final .”