The biggest and most competitive Rugby League World Cup is about to begin

“This is international rugby league’s moment to shine,” the Rugby League World Cup’s chief executive Jon Dutton said during the official launch of the tournament in Manchester.

Originally scheduled for last year, the RLWC has finally arrived after Australia and New Zealand pulled the pin on their participation due to complications around the coronavirus pandemic in 2021. 

The decision from the Australian Rugby League Commission to withdraw from the tournament on late notice was heavily criticised. But time appears to have healed all wounds as the tournament organisers spoke of a pivotal moment for the international game, with the opening match between England and Samoa now just days away. 

MORE: Why was the Rugby League World Cup rescheduled? | How to watch the RLWC in England 

“We’re about to stage the biggest tournament in the sport’s 127-year history,” Dutton declared.

“We welcome the sport’s greatest contemporary athletes and the most diverse playing population to have ever assembled in the sport.”

This year’s edition of the RLWC will boast the most even playing rosters to date with talent spread out across the 16 competing nations like never before. 

Australia, New Zealand and England have compiled impressive squads as usual for the powerhouse countries, yet the emergence of the Pacific nations continues unabated with Tonga and Samoa posing as legitimate threats. 

The Tongans were the feel-good story of the last World Cup, only getting beaten at the semi-final stage by the English under controversial circumstances. 

Meanwhile, the Samoans will be looking to emulate the run their rivals went on in 2017 and have eight stars in their side from this year’s NRL grand final between Penrith and Parramatta. 

MORE: Rugby League World Cup 2022 – Every nation’s full 24-man squad for the tournament 

Having been put on the backburner for close to three years as travel restrictions were enforced around the world, the international game of rugby league has taken a hit.

In fact, the Kangaroos haven’t played a competitive fixture since their loss to Tonga in 2019, while New Zealand managed to arrange a mid-season Test match against Tonga during the representative round this campaign. 

“It is fundamentally important that we succeed,” Dutton continued. 

“It means more people will engage with the sport, there will be more visibility across the globe and more opportunities will be provided by these special moments. 

“Together we have the greatest opportunity to create new history that will pave the way for amazing athletes to show the world their talents.”

MORE: It’s all in the numbers – The Kangaroos’ unique jersey decision creates debate

Sports Minister, Stuart Andrew, also spoke glowingly of the opportunity rugby league had to make a mark on the sporting landscape like it had never done before in the international arena.

“Today, we launch the biggest and best Rugby League World Cup ever,” Andrew said.

It has been almost a decade since England last hosted the tournament, with monumental shifts in not only the sport but also society occurring since then.

“Everyone collectively has had to navigate so many things, but we have done that with a resolute determination,” Dutton said. “Let the fun begin.”

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