England will play Samoa in the opening match of the 2021 Rugby World Cup at St James’ Park, Newcastle.
The Pacific Islanders were the first nation to be drawn out of the hat by dual-code international Jason Robinson and 2012 Olympic rowing gold medal winner Dame Katherine Grainger and placed in Group A alongside the hosts.
The first-ever public draw was hosted by Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex at Buckingham Palace in his first engagement since he and his wife quit as senior royals.
England’s other group opponents will be France and World Cup debutants Greece. The tournament takes place in October and November next year
Holders Australia will play Fiji, Scotland and Italy in Group B while New Zealand were paired with Lebanon, Jamaica and Ireland in Group C. In Group D, fourth seeds Tonga will play Papua New Guinea, Wales and Cook Islands. The top two in each group qualify for the quarter-finals.
In the Women’s World Cup, England will play newcomers Brazil in the opening match before taking on Papua New Guinea and Canada in the group stage, while Australia were paired with New Zealand, France and the Cook Islands.
The wheelchair competition, consisting of two groups, sees England, Australia, Spain and Norway feature in Group A, while France, Wales, Scotland and USA are in Group B.
The Duke of Sussex will be the face of a groundbreaking mental health awareness campaign launched by tournament organisers. As part of a five-point mental fitness charter, organisers have committed to training every player, official, match official and volunteer to look after their own mental fitness by the final game of the tournament.
In a video introduction to the campaign, the Prince said: “Rugby League isn’t just a sport, it’s a community, and one that takes care of its own. For many years, it has been at the forefront of promoting and supporting good mental fitness, working hard to build a positive mindset for everyone involved in the sport.”
Rugby League World Cup 2021 draws
Men’s competition draw
Group A England, Samoa, France, Greece
Group B Australia, Fiji, Scotland, Italy
Group C New Zealand, Lebanon, Jamaica, Ireland
Group D Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Wales, Cook Islands
Women’s competition draw
Group A England, Papua New Guinea, Canada, Brazil
Group B Australia, New Zealand, France, Cook Islands
Wheelchair competition draw
Group A England, Australia, Spain, Norway
Group B France, Wales, Scotland, USA
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