The Rugby League World Cup have announced revised playing dates after the 2021 version was postponed by 12 months.
In a move which will mean the tournament can avoid being played at the same time as the FIFA World Cup, which is due to kick-off on November 21, the Rugby League World Cup will commence a week earlier in 2022 than was originally scheduled in 2021.
That means the opening games will be played on October 15, and finish with a double-header for both the women’s and men’s final at Old Trafford on November 19.
The earlier start on October 15 means the opening weekend is just two weeks after what would generally be the NRL grand final.
It remains to be seen whether the revised dates of the tournament, set to be held in England, will force the NRL’s hand in bringing the season forward by a week, given three weeks was already set to be a tight turnaround from a grand final in Sydney to playing a competitive international game in England.
The NRL will want to ensure their grand final stays on the first weekend in October if all possible, given the public holiday Monday which follows. They missed that date in 2020 as the season extended into late spring following the midseason coronavirus enforced shutdown, and will more than likely play the 2021 decider out of Brisbane.
The current season start date is scheduled for March 10, although nothing can be for certain in the current pandemic climate.
With NRL clubs set to give players a longer break following the current season in order to recover from the Queensland hub which has allowed the competition to continue, many clubs may not be keen on seeing the season’s start date brought forward by a week.
It also remains to be seen how the new start date will impact the NRLW season.
The individual match fixtures are yet to be confirmed by the Rugby League World Cup, with a new tournament draw set to be released by the end of the year.
Rugby League World Cup 2021 tournament chairman Jon Dutton said the tournament organisers were confident a similar schedule and fixture list would be able to be confirmed to what was originally planned for the now postponed version of the tournament.
“The continuing conversations with all our supportive hosts and venues have been hugely positive. We are confident that we can deliver a similar tournament schedule, which will be communicated as soon as possible,” Dutton said.
“Obviously, we are disappointed the tournament will not be happening as originally planned but we are determined to make next year a celebration of sport, unity, people, place and civic pride.”