World Cup heads way out west

The 13-a-side code will break new ground not just at Twickenham, but also at Gloucester, Reading, Wrexham, Llanelli and points west in this autumn's Lincoln World Cup.

The 13-a-side code will break new ground not just at Twickenham, but also at Gloucester, Reading, Wrexham, Llanelli and points west in this autumn's Lincoln World Cup.

Although the first game of league to be held at rugby union's headquarters is the most startling announcement, the range of venues elsewhere in Britain and beyond defines the tournament as the most ambitious that the game has ever staged.

However, the month-long competition is set to kick-off on 28 October at Windsor Park, Belfast, which has staged just one match in the past - a promotional replay of the 1954 Challenge Cup final.

Among the grounds completely new to the code are Kingsholm in Gloucester, which stages New Zealand v Lebanon, and Wrexham's Racecourse Ground, the scene of Wales' fixture against the Cook Islands.

International rugby league has been played in Llanelli, but not at Stradey Park which will host Wales v Lebanon, whilst the Madejski Stadium in Reading will be home to the meeting between New Zealand and the Cook Islands.

Perhaps the biggest event of the group stage will be at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, which will be the setting for a double-header featuring the Cook Islands v Lebanon and the crunch match between Wales and New Zealand.

There will be games in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, a complete set of group matches staged in France and quarter-finals at Watford, Leeds, Widnes and Castleford. The semis will be at Bolton and Huddersfield, with the final at Old Trafford on 25 November. But there is no game at Wigan, which turned down the offer of a quarter final in high dudgeon after being refused a semi.

It is not the fixture list of a game unsure of its appeal. The tournament director, Neil Tunnicliffe, said that, in earmarking 27 different venues for the 31 games, rugby league was following the expansive example of the cricket World Cup last year.

"We wanted to take group matches to as many new areas as possible, before bringing the knock-out stages back onto more familiar ground," he said.

Phil Holstein of the Lincoln Financial Group, which is sponsoring the tournament, called it: "The most exciting event in rugby league history. I believe that, in years to come, people will look back on the World Cup as a genuine turning point for the game."

In an attempt to ensure that even games in faraway places with strange sounding names will be well supported, there will be lowest-priced tickets of £10 on sale for every game, and half that for concessions.

John Duffy, who could well figure in the tournament, has joined Salford from Warrington on a one-year contract.

"A regular place is my target for the season, because I have hopes of playing for Scotland in the World Cup," said Duffy, who has already appeared for the Scots in a domestic international.

Gary Barnett, the Batley scrum-half, has been suspended for six matches for a reckless high tackle that broke the jaw of another Scots-qualified player, Sheffield Eagles' Gavin Brown, earlier this month.

WORLD CUP GROUPS AND SCHEDULE

GROUPS

ONE

England (hosts), Australia, Fiji, Russia.

TWO

Wales (hosts), New Zealand, Cook Islands, Lebanon.

THREE

France (hosts), Papua New Guinea, Tonga, South Africa.

FOUR

Ireland, Scotland (joint hosts), Samoa, Maori.

FIXTURES

SATURDAY 28 OCTOBER

Group One: England v Australia (6.30; at Twickenham). Group Three: France v Papua New Guinea (3.0; at Charléty Stadium, Paris). Group Four: Ireland v Samoa (3.0; at Windsor Park, Belfast).

SUNDAY 29 OCTOBER

Group One: Fiji v Russia (3.0; at Craven Park, Barrow). Group Two: New Zealand v Lebanon (3.0; at Kingsholm, Gloucester); Wales v Cook Islands (6.45; at Racecourse Ground, Wrexham). Group Three: Tonga v South Africa (2.0; at Region Parisienne, Paris). Group Four: Scotland v Maoris (3.0; at Firhill Stadium, Glasgow).

WEDNESDAY 1 NOVEMBER

Group One: Australia v Fiji (7.30; at Gateshead International Stadium); England v Russia (7.45; at Knowsley Road, St Helens). Group Three: France v Tonga (2.0; at Carcassone). Group Four: Ireland v Scotland (7.30; at Tolka Park, Dublin); Samoa v Maoris (7.30; at Derwent Park, Workington).

THURSDAY 2 NOVEMBER

Group Two: Wales v Lebanon (7.30; at Stradey Park, Llanelli); New Zealand v Cook Islands (7.30; at Madejski Stadium, Reading). Group Three: Papua New Guinea v South Africa (7.0; at Toulouse).

SATURDAY 4 NOVEMBER

Group One: England v Fiji (3.0; at Headingley); Australia v Russia (7.30; at The Boulevard, Hull). Group Four: Ireland v Maoris (6.30; at Tolka Park, Dublin).

SUNDAY 5 NOVEMBER

Group Two: Cook Islands v Lebanon (12.30), Wales v New Zealand (3.0; both at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff). Group Three: France v South Africa (2.0; at Albi). Group Four: Scotland v Samoa (6.45; at Tynecastle, Edinburgh).

MONDAY 6 NOVEMBER

Group Three: Papua New Guinea v Tonga (7.0; at Perpignan).

SATURDAY 11 NOVEMBER

Quarter-finals: Winners Group One v Runners-up Group Four (3.0; at Vicarage Road, Watford); Runners-up Group One v Winners Group Four, (6.30; at Headingley).

SUNDAY 12 NOVEMBER

Quarter-finals: Winners Group Two v Runners-up Group Three (5.0; at Widnes); Runners-up Group Two v Winners Group Three (6.45; at Castleford).

SATURDAY 18 NOVEMBER

Semi-final (1): (3.0; at Reebok Stadium, Bolton).

SUNDAY 19 NOVEMBER

Semi-final (2): (6.45; at McAlpine Stadium, Huddersfield).

SATURDAY 25 NOVEMBER

Final: (3.0; at Old Trafford).

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