Play it twice Sam: Tomkins and Burgess are key to England's hopes of a home win


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The Independent Online

The Rugby League World Cup, eh? How long has this been going on?

Since 1954, so it's younger than football's World Cup and older than the cricket and rugby union World Cups.

So it has been taking place at regular intervals since then?

Not quite. There have been a few gaps. The last one was in Australia in 2008.

Don't Australia always win it?

Not necessarily. Great Britain have won it three times and New Zealand are the reigning champions.

Fourteen teams in four groups. How does that work?

It is slightly convoluted. There are two groups of four, both of which will send three teams to the quarter-finals. And there are also two weaker, three-team groups which send through one apiece.

What's the idea of that?

The theory is it maximises the number of competitive games and reduces the incidence of one-sided matches.

Is it strictly a north of England thing?

By no means. The opening ceremony and a double-header of fixtures are at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday. The semi-finals are at Wembley and there are other games in Bristol, Neath and Limerick.

Scotland, Ireland, the United States, Italy… how genuine are these teams?

It varies and there's no denying that grand-parental and residential qualifications come strongly into play. But that's international sport, isn't it?

Apart from Sonny Bill Williams, which players could dominate proceedings?

Either of England's Sams – full-back Tomkins or destructive forward Burgess – although Johnathan Thurston has the ability to run the show in Australia's favour. Akuila Uate is the best winger in the NRL, if Fiji can get the ball to him.

How do we get to see it?

Get to the grounds – ticket prices are generally reasonable. England's games and the other major encounters are on the BBC, but all games are live on Premier Sports.