RFL rugby director Kevin Sinfield says hosting a Rugby League World Cup 2021 men’s semi-final at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium could do wonders for attracting new players to the sport.
The venues for the competition were announced yesterday with a headline being rugby league becoming the first sport – other than football – to be played at the famous Premier League club’s 60,000 capacity ground.
Manchester United’s Old Trafford hosts the final, while Elland Road has the other semi-final and Newcastle United’s St James’ Park stages the opening ceremony.
Liverpool’s Anfield also features and Sinfield admitted: “It gives an opportunity for everyone involved. When you look across the game, if you have aspirations to play our sport – to represent England for either men’s, women’s or wheelchair – there’s some venues now that make you really stop, look at rugby league and take it seriously.
“The Emirates is certainly a stand-out. I was fortunate to get opportunity to spend a bit of time down there last year; it’s a great venue for rugby league. I think for our players it will make for it to be a very, very special event and rightly so. To have a World Cup semi-final at a venue like that is fitting and let’s hope we can fill it with crazy England fans in support of a team that’s built momentum and got some confidence and belief at that stage as well.”
Sinfield, who captained England in the last World Cup on these shores in 2013 and now leads the England Performance Unit, says the announcement has “whetted the appetite.”.
I was fortunate to get opportunity to spend a bit of time (at the Emirates) last year; it’s a great venue for rugby league. I think for our players it will make for it to be a very, very special event and rightly so.Kevin Sinfield
He said: “It brings it into reality; to understand what venues we’ll be playing at 1,000 days out is brilliant. (RLWC2021 CEO) Jon Dutton and the team have done a great job in planning and strategy.
“Certainly in terms of the players and staff involved I was really excited to hear the opening ceremony would be Newcastle, group games in Sheffield and Bolton and potentially quarters at Anfield, a semi at Emirates and an Old Trafford final. That’s special.”
Sinfield now just wants to get the immediate calendar sorted out with Great Britain still awaiting news on their 2019 tour.
He said: “I understand everyone’s frustrations.
“I have them too. 2020 doesn’t worry me, 2021 doesn’t worry me.
“It’s just really important we get the fixtures right this year. Hopefully there’ll be good news very soon. We’re optimistic but there are some frustrations there.”