St Helens will welcome the Tonga and Italy men’s national teams to the borough next year as part of its host status role at the Rugby League World Cup.
In May 2019, it was revealed that St Helens Borough had been selected as a training base for two nations set to compete at the 2021 world cup, who today (Wednesday 10 June) – 500 days until the start of the tournament – have been confirmed as Tonga and Italy, ranked 4th and 13th in the world respectively.
The teams will prepare for matches at St Helens Council’s £3.6m state-of-the art Ruskin Drive Sports Village, complete with a RFL-certified 3G floodlit artificial rugby pitch; nearby Cowley International College – used by the current Super League champions St Helens R.F.C. (Saints) – which boasts top-class training facilities to an international standard; and the new fitness suite at Newton-le-Willows Health and Fitness.
As well as hosting two teams for training purposes, St Helens Borough will also stage three men’s group matches at Saints’ 18,000 capacity Totally Wicked Stadium, considered by many to be the best purpose-built club rugby stadium in the country.
The overall impact of St Helens Borough’s involvement in the Rugby League World Cup, tipped to be the biggest and best one to date, is expected to boost the local economy by more than £3m and will benefit the grassroots game through a number of legacy projects.
Commenting on today’s announcement, St Helens Council leader, David Baines, said:
“The Rugby League World Cup is going to a be a sensational event and we’re very much looking forward to welcoming Tonga and Italy to St Helens. I know that the players, staff and fans will get a very warm welcome from everyone in the borough.
“The teams can also rest assured that their match preparations could not be better placed when they visit Ruskin Drive Sports Ground – one of the finest multi-purpose sports complexes in the region; Cowley, where some of rugby league’s biggest stars train day in, day out; and the recently redeveloped Newton-le-Willows Health and Fitness, a top class, state of the art facility. And of course, the world class Totally Wicked Stadium will host three men’s group games. There’s no better club rugby stadium in the country.
“For St Helens Borough to be chosen to be part of a global celebration of rugby league speaks volumes of the borough’s proud past and achievements in the sport. We proved during the last World Cup back in 2013 how welcoming our borough is, and we’re more than ready to do it all again.”
St Helens Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health, Leisure, Libraries, Arts & Heritage,
Councillor Anthony Burns, added: “Being part of the Rugby League World Cup 2021 – tipped to be the biggest one yet – is an opportunity to increase the borough’s profile nationally and internationally, supporting our aims of raising aspirations in the borough as a place to live, work, study and visit.
“Not only that – but it will also benefit the local grassroots game which has produced some of the greatest players Super League has ever seen, and hopefully influence the next generation of rugby league stars in a borough where rugby is more than just a game – it’s a way of life.
“Bring it on.”
Mike Rush, Chief Executive of St Helens R.F.C., said: “The Rugby League World Cup is a special event so to host two international teams right here in St Helens and specifically at our training venues and fantastic purpose-built rugby league stadium, is a privilege.
“With our Head Coach, Kristian Woolf, also coaching Tonga, it’s of course extra special for him and the club – and over the coming months we will be working hard to ensure it is an experience to remember for everyone involved, including the players, coaches, staff and whole St Helens community.”
To be held in England in the October and November, organisers are aiming to draw in record crowds at the 2021 tournament, with the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions staged in a single, celebratory event – making it the biggest Rugby League World Cup yet.
Please visit www.RLWC2021.com for more information and for details on how to sign up to the receive ticket alerts and all the latest news first.