Tune into BBC One at around 13:30 this Satruday and you might get a bit of a shock. The Millennium Stadium, so iconic in recent years for the enviable success of the Welsh national side, is hosting a very different event. There is just as much passion, just as much skill, and even more hits: the league boys are in town. For many ‘down south’, it may sound like a well kept secret, but the Rugby League World Cup kicks off in style this weekend. Here are five reasons you shouldn’t miss a minute.
1.) Veritable Venues: From Langtree Park to Limerick, from Warrington to Perpignan, the World Cup is everywhere. 28 matches are occurring at 21 different stadiums, up and down the country and even abroad. The World Cup is a great opportunity to visit grounds at the very heart of rugby’s heritage, as well as swanky new stadiums.
2.) Big Names, Brilliant Brothers: The World Cup is evidently going to be graced by the very best players ‘league has to offer, but a big draw is the return of cross-code sensation Sonny Bill Williams to his original sport. The Heavyweight boxing champ and much idolized ‘offload-king’ may also renew his rivalry with England star Sam Burgess, one of three brothers in the England squad.
3.) It’s Affordable: A tour around Wembley Stadium costs £16. A ‘double header’ ticket for both semi finals of the Rugby League World Cup is as cheap as £20. If you need any more context, in football terms that’s £60 cheaper than the cheapest Champions League Final Ticket.
4.) No Dead Rubbers: The tournament’s unique format, which sees the top eight teams in two pools each providing three quarter-finalists, is designed to minimize one-sided contests. It certainly bodes for some tantalizing group-stage contests, including England against Australia and New Zealand against France.
5.) No Guarantees: Australia boast the tournament’s best record, having won an astonishing nine titles from a possible 13, while England will hope home advantage brings them their first win in the tournament.
It’s fast, its unpredictable, there are 28 games, 14 teams. There will only be one winner.