16 January 2020 20:45
And I've seen some beards in my time' the Prince told the Australian comic, as the pair were introduced at the draw for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup. Hills, whose captaincy of the Warrington Wolves in the Physical Disability Rugby League was shown in a Channel 4 documentary last month, told the Prince that he was finally preparing to shave on January 31, the date the UK is supposed to leave Europe. Ordinarily, the prospect of England facing Sonny Bill Williams in the opening game of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup would have been the biggest takeaway from the tournament draw on Thursday. Tournament organisers have promised the biggest and best World Cup in the sport's history in October and November next year, and if the buzz surrounding the draw is even remotely matched during the tournament, they will almost certainly deliver on that promise. It was seen as a major coup for the tournament then, but in light of the Duke of Sussex's intention to step back from royal duties, the fact this was his first public engagement since that announcement handed rugby league a glorious opportunity for mainstream attention. "To have him there, front and centre in Buckingham Palace, was huge for the sport," the RFL's rugby director, Kevin Sinfield, said after the draw.
While Harry and the host broadcasters were at Buckingham Palace to conduct the draw – an event that, aesthetically speaking, looked fantastic – the rest of the dignitaries, media and big-wigs were housed 200 miles away in Manchester. The plush surroundings of the Lowry Theatre were certainly in keeping with the event, but with the tournament organisers told only a handful of VIPs could go to Buckingham Palace, it meant guests such as Rebecca Adlington were restricted to watching the draw unfold from a big screen at Salford Quays. Fans will watch with keen interest to see whether Williams opts for Samoa or New Zealand – a decision he is allowed to make under the international rugby league guidelines despite already playing for the Kiwis. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Prince Harry met Leeds Rhinos' wheelchair team captain James Simpson (right) at events surrounding the World Cup draw. "The aim of the England Performance Unit is to win all three World Cups, and that hasn't changed," said Sinfield.
Kevin Sinfield is not underestimating England's World Cup opponents Greece Kevin Sinfield is wary of unknown quantity Greece after England were drawn with the debutants for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup. The Greeks booked their place in next year's tournament despite a dispute which meant they were unable to play qualifiers at home due to rugby league being something of an outlaw sport there. Samoa and old rivals France, who England have faced in the past two World Cups, completed the line-up for Pool A, but RFL rugby director Sinfield is taking nothing for granted against the newcomers. "I think they'll be something that is unknown and a potential banana skin for everybody, but I think they'll be competitive and I think it's remarkable what they've been able to achieve so far," Sinfield, who played in three World Cups for England, said of Greece. "We've played them in past two World Cups and got through unscathed, but they can cause an upset and Greece are a bit unknown at this moment in time, but I'm sure they'll be in the mix as well." Greece, pictured in qualifier action against Scotland, are playing in their first Rugby League World Cup Host nation England kick off the tournament against Samoa at Newcastle's St James' Park on October 23 next year, with the full pool stage fixtures for the World Cup to be confirmed. Of the other Home Nations, Scotland were drawn in Pool B along with reigning champions Australia, semi-finals at the last two tournaments Fiji and Italy.
Wales are in Pool D with growing world power Tonga and their Pacific Island rivals Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands, while Ireland will face 2008 World Cup winners New Zealand, Lebanon and the other debutant Jamaica in Pool C. The women's World Cup will run concurrently with the men's tournament, with eight teams taking part and England in Pool A along with Papua New Guinea, Canada and emerging nation Brazil, who they kick off their tournament against at Headingley on October 26. Australia, New Zealand, France and the Cook Islands make up Pool B, and England and St Helens star Emily Rudge is excited to be taking on one of the sport's newcomers in the opening game. "Obviously Brazil are a little bit unknown and one of the new teams who have been brought into the competition, so that will be really exciting first game," Rudge said. "It's really exciting times for the women, the game is growing massively and the tour to Papua New Guinea was proof of that. England's Emily Rudge cannot wait for the Women's Rugby League World Cup to get started Also taking place alongside the men's and women's events is the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup, and all three tournaments will have equal prize money. The wheelchair tournament, which is mixed-sex, sees England and Australia face off first up in Pool A, followed by them taking on Spain and Norway. Leeds Rhinos half-back Luke Gale is buzzing for next year's Rugby League World Cup. PIC: Steve Riding England's men will face Samoa in the opening game of the tournament at St James' Park, Newcastle, on Saturday, October 23, before other group ties against France and Greece. Leeds Rhinos women's team coach Adam Cuthbertson is excited by the World Cup format that includes senior men, women and wheelchair teams. In the wheelchair version, England were drawn against Australia, who they will open the tournament against at the Copperbox in London, as well as Spain and Norway. He said: "I think it will be the biggest and best World Cup to date. Southern-hemisphere sides have dominated the World Cup since Great Britain won a four-team tournament in 1972, but England went desperately close to ending the long wait for silverware four years ago. The 2017 hosts drew a two-Test series in Papua New Guinea last autumn, but have never played Brazil or Canada. Rhinos team boss Adam Cuthbertson, who was assistant-coach on last year's tour, said: "It's exciting when you talk about Brazil and rugby league. "For me, it's unheard of so to hear about a Brazilian team coming over to the UK to take on England in our first match at Headingley, it's very exciting for the game going forward." Canada are an unknown quantity, but Cuthbertson said: "They are coming along nicely with what they are doing in rugby league. Men's 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 draw: Group A - England, Papua New Guinea, Canada, Brazil; Group B - Australia, New Zealand, France, Cook Islands. Former national captain Kevin Sinfield admits facing Sonny Bill Williams in the opening game of the 2021 World Cup would increase the size of England's task. The Duke of Sussex threw up the exciting prospect of England going up against the former All Black when he pulled Samoa out of the hat in the public draw at Buckingham Palace, in his first engagement since he and his wife quit as senior royals. #RLWC2021 pic.twitter.com/O5iVFdlXiX — Rugby League World Cup 2021 (@RLWC2021) January 16, 2020 Williams, who has switched codes after representing New Zealand at last year's Rugby World Cup in Japan, played for the Kiwis in rugby league's showpiece tournament in 2013 but is also eligible for Samoa and has yet to announce his intentions. "I think it'd be great if he could play for New Zealand or Samoa. England's other Group A opponents, drawn by dual-code international Jason Robinson and 2012 Olympic rowing gold medallist Dame Katherine Grainger, will be France and World Cup debutants Greece. England were 36-6 winners over France in the 2017 World Cup in Perth and beat Samoa 30-10 in a mid-season international in Sydney that year. 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. Wales coach John Kear is happy with the World Cup draw (Richard Sellers/PA) Very exciting wheelchair and men's draw for Scotland. 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.