England drawn against Samoa, France and Greece at 2021 World Cup

By Ian Laybourn, PA Rugby League Correspondent
PA Media: Sport

The Duke of Sussex has thrown up the prospect of England facing Sonny Bill Williams in the opening game of the 2021 World Cup.

At the first public draw at Buckingham Palace, Samoa were the first nation to be pulled out of the hat by Harry in his first engagement since he and his wife quit as senior royals.

It means the hosts will kick off the tournament against Samoa at St James’ Park, Newcastle, on October 23, 2021.

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Williams, who has switched codes after representing the All Blacks at last year’s World Cup in Japan, played for New Zealand in rugby league’s showpiece tournament in 2013 but is also eligible for Samoa and has yet to announce his choice.

England’s other Group A opponents, drawn by dual-code international Jason Robinson and 2012 Olympic rowing gold-medal winner Dame Katherine Grainger, will be France and World Cup debutants Greece.

Venues for the rest of the matches will be determined over the next few weeks.

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Introducing the Rugby League World Cup 2021 Mental Fitness Charter – a new initiative created by the RFL that will champion the importance of good mental fitness and create sustainable legacy the sport can be proud of. The Duke was announced Patron of the Rugby Football League in December 2016, after it was given to him by Her Majesty The Queen. He is proud to support the Rugby League and the steps made to improve the sport! The initiative announcement comes ahead of today’s live RLWC2021 World cup draw with The Duke of Sussex, alongside representatives of all 21 nations involved, in Buckingham Palace. By “the final whistle of the final game” of @RLWC2021, the charter commits to: • – Train every player, team official, match official, teammate and volunteer to look after their own mental fitness and the mental fitness of those around them. – Support tournament players to take their experiences home and develop mental fitness awareness within their own Rugby League communities. – Deliver mental fitness workshops to 8,000 young Rugby League players, and their parents. – Train grass roots coaches to continue delivering mental fitness workshops and leave a sustainable tournament legacy. This comes at a vital time for both the sport and mental health awareness, with suicide being the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 here in UK. Given that 93% of the 42,000 Rugby league players and 70% of spectators are male, the mental fitness charter is of huge importance to help educate both players and audiences of the benefits of looking after one’s mental wellness. Video © @RLWC2021

A post shared by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (@sussexroyal) on Jan 16, 2020 at 1:52am PST

Scotland were drawn in Group B alongside holders Australia, Fiji and Italy while John Kear’s Wales face Pacific Island opponents Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Cook Islands.

In the other group, New Zealand were paired with Lebanon, Jamaica and Ireland.

England will play newcomers Brazil in the opening match of the women’s World Cup and will also take on Papua New Guinea and Canada in the group stage, while Australia were paired with New Zealand, France and the Cook Islands.

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