CO-HOSTS Wales will play Italy at the Millennium Stadium in the first match of next year’s rugby league World Cup, it has been confirmed.
The cross-group game follows the tournament’s opening ceremony and is part of a mouth-watering double header on Saturday, October 26 alongside England’s clash with Australia.
The World Cup schedule also sees Wales taking on the USA at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham before the men in red travel to The Gnoll in Neath to face the Cook Islands.
Matches are spread around the UK, Ireland and France with Limerick’s Thomond Park, Avignon’s Parc des Sports and Perpignan’s Gilbert Brutus Stadium hosting matches.
“This is an exciting day and an important milestone in our planning for this tournament,” said RLWC2013 Ltd chairman Richard Lewis.
“We are using one of the iconic locations in British sport; the Millennium Stadium. The opening ceremony and double header will give fans the chance to see the best players in the world going head to head.”
The venue for the final and semi-finals has yet to be confirmed but the locations for the quarter-finals have been announced.
The winner of Pool A (England, Australia, Ireland, Fiji) will meet the winner of Pool D (Wales, Cook Islands, USA) in Wrexham while Wigan’s DW Stadium is the venue for the last eight clash between the runners-up in Pool A and the third-placed team in Pool B.
The top country in Pool B (New Zealand, France, Samoa, Papua New Guinea) plays the winner of Pool C (Scotland, Tonga, Italy) at Headingley in Leeds and Warrington’s Hlliwell Jones Stadium hosts the tie between the Pool B runner-up and the third best side in Pool A.
“We are delighted that Wales will join our neighbours England in hosting the Rugby League World Cup final this year,” said Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones. “It’s wonderful that our capital city, Cardiff, will host participating countries before the tournament - the only time these nations will all unite during the World Cup.
“Hosting the opening ceremony and the double header here at the Millennium Stadium, in addition to matches at Wrexham and Neath, will have major international significance and we look forward to welcoming the world to Wales in 2013.”
Rugby League World Cup 2013 tournament schedule;
England v Australia, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Fiji v Ireland, Spotland Stadium, Rochdale
England v Ireland, The Galpharm Stadium, Huddersfield
Australia v Fiji, Langtree Park, St Helens
England v Fiji, KC Stadium, Hull
Australia v Ireland, Thomond Park, Limerick
France v Papua New Guinea, MS3 Craven Park, Hull
New Zealand v Samoa, The Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington
France v New Zealand, Parc des Sports, Avignon
Samoa v Papua New Guinea, MS3 Craven Park, Hull
New Zealand v Papua New Guinea, Headingley Carnegie Stadium, Leeds
France v Samoa, Gilbert Brutus Stadium, Perpignan
Scotland v Tonga, Pow Beck Stadium, Whitehaven
Scotland v Italy, Pow Beck Stadium, Whitehaven
Tonga v Italy, The Shay Stadium, Halifax
Cook Islands v USA, The Memorial Stadium, Bristol
Wales v USA, Glyndŵr University Racecourse Ground, Wrexham
Wales v Cook Islands, The Gnoll, Neath
Wales v Italy, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Tonga v Cook Islands, Leigh Sports Village
Scotland v USA, City of Salford Community Stadium
Winner A v Winner D, Glyndŵr University Racecourse Ground, Wrexham
Runner-Up A v 3rd place B, DW Stadium, Wigan
Winner B v Winner C, Headingley Carnegie Stadium, Leeds
Runner-Up B v 3rd place A, The Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington
Winner Q/F 1 v Winner Q/F 4, To be confirmed
Winner Q/F 2 v Winner Q/F 3, To be confirmed
To be confirmed