AUSTRALIA and New Zealand are on course to fail the Rugby League World Cup for a second straight year.
And tournament boss Jon Dutton will lead the NRL face-to-face as the home tournament, delayed by a year after Australia and New Zealand refused to travel, is set to break records.
It will also get star treatment as Ant and Dec will present it to millions of television viewers on Saturday night’s The Saturday Night Takeaway Show.
Some 30,000 tickets have already been sold for what was to be England’s semi-final at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and the final at Old Trafford at Newcastle’s St James’ Park on October 15, for the opening match between England and Samoa.
Sales for other games, like Tonga v Cook Islands in Middlesbrough, are also in or around five figures.
The opening of the Women’s World Cup – a double header featuring England v Brazil and Papua New Guinea at Headingley v Canada – already surpassed the previous attendance record of 4,235.
And as far as Dutton knows, nothing, not even interference from NRL clubs, can ruin things from here – although he’s never received an answer as to why Australia and New Zealand wouldn’t come in 2021.
He said of the Australian TV deal still not being agreed: “There is absolutely no indication that they would not come back.
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“The document we produced last year – Covid-19 procedures and protocols – still exists but is being adapted to the public health conditions of the time.
“There are still challenges outside the UK but we will create a safe environment for players and staff.
“We drew a line and moved on – we had sympathy and understanding for their position, particularly from the New Zealand Warriors players who have lived away from home for so long.
“Maybe after the tournament someone can explain better than me what happened, but that’s in the past, we’ve moved on.
“I hope to speak to Peter V’Landys from the Australia Rugby League Commission when I travel to Australia in June. I will also be speaking to the chief executives of the NRL clubs.”
The World Cup bosses are aiming to be something sport has never seen in Britain – £20m in grants have already been awarded for community projects, with a further £2m to come.
A 14th The global brand is set to sign up as a partner next month and Dutton believes they have the potential to move on to club play.
In the weeks leading up to launch, expect to see it on billboards, TV, radio and services like YouTube and Spotify with the slogan “This is Real Impact”.
It will feature stories such as England’s Alex Walmsley’s rise to the top, first black international captain Clive Sullivan and 18-year-old England women’s captain Georgia Roche.
The Papua New Guinea women’s team and the relief provided by St. Helens Tonga following a tsunami are also told ahead of time.
And Dutton, coupled with a role on the new body that will power both Rugby Football League and Super League as part of the sport’s rebalancing, believes it is in a better position to build given the Channel 4 deal brings a big boost to the Super League.
He added: “It’s absolutely a phenomenally good thing, the more new people see the sport – the more see it overall – is a good thing.
“And the game is in a better marketing position now than it was before. From an off-field perspective, it’s been a great start to the season and we’ve seen some really encouraging crowds.
“We know we have to work hard – rugby league isn’t a sell-out sport – but there’s never been a tournament like this.
“One of our values is authenticity, without any gimmicks. What we are doing is real and a lot of the research is pointing in the right direction.”
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/4997422/world-cup-ant-and-dec-australia-new-zealand/ Delayed Rugby League World Cup set to take off