After being postponed last year due to the complications of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2021 Rugby League World Cup will finally take place in England across October and November this year.

Following many months of anticipation, the 16th edition of the prestigious tournament looks set to be a cracker.

Here are five things to look out for at this year’s Rugby League World Cup in England:

1 - Aussie & Kiwi dominance

Perhaps overly obvious to those within the know of the sport, but Australia and New Zealand will once again be strong contenders to lift the World Cup this time around.

The Kangaroos will be looking to claim their third-successive title after breaking the hearts of both Wayne Bennett’s England in the 2017 final, and their Kiwi counterparts at Old Trafford four years earlier.

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Australia defeated England in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup final.

New Zealand meanwhile will be looking to earn some revenge from that infamous 2013 defeat when the showpiece returns to Manchester in November.

Australia’s golden generation of Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and co. may now be a distant memory, but they still possess some of the most gifted and natural rugby footballers in the game and will look to dent England’s World Cup hopes in 2022.

2 – Wane’s winners?

Led by former CEO of a Sports Organisation delegate Shaun Wane, England will be looking to avenge their agonising 6-0 2017 final defeat by going one step further at this year’s tournament.

Aside from the glory days under the Great Britain banner, the Wall of White have never been crowned World Cup Champions, but they could well go all the way under Wane.
Widely regarded as one of the game’s most respected and tactically astute coaches, Wane has the knowhow and winning mentality needed for the biggest stage.

England will be led by former GIS delegate Shaun Wane at RLWC2021.

A former Super League coach-of-the-year, Wane led his Wigan Warriors side to three Super League titles, one Challenge Cup win & a World Club Challenge victory during his memorable spell at the DW Stadium, so knows exactly what it takes to get to the very top.

With an array of established Super League and NRL stars to choose from, combined with some of the game’s most promising talent, Wane’s squad will certainly take some beating.

3 – Tonga’s return

Tonga were the story of the 2017 tournament after they produced a series of remarkable performances to reach the semi-finals.

The controversial decision to disallow Andrew Fifita’s last gasp try vs England without a video review meant a late fightback wasn’t enough to secure a final appearance, but the spirit the players and supporters showed throughout the tournament would go down in rugby league history.

Due to the impact of Covid-19, Tonga haven’t played a test match since their historic win over Australia in the autumn of 2019 and Kristian Woolf’s troops will be chomping at the bit to make up for any lost time this year.

With the likes of Fifita, Tui Lolohea, Konrad Hurrell, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Daniel Tupou in their ranks, Tonga will be a force to be reckoned with.

4 – Ja-making history

Jamaica is not a name that is synonymous with the world of rugby league. However, in 2018 the ‘Reggae Warriors’ made history when their success in the Americas Rugby League Championship earned them their first ever spot at the Rugby League World Cup.

For a team that only made its full international debut in 2009 to qualify for the biggest international rugby league competition nine years later is quite simply a phenomenal achievement.

Jamaica won’t settle on simply making up the numbers though, their squad is packed with proven Super League and Championship talent and the likes of Jordan Turner, Ashton Golding, Michael Lawrence, Greg Johnson and the Jones-Bishop brothers will certainly fancy their chances in Group C.

If Jamaica can overcome Ireland and Lebanon, there is every chance that they could make the semi-finals, but whatever happens, they have already made history.

5 – A World Cup for all

Something that will make this year’s Rugby League World Cup all the more special is its inclusivity.

For the first time ever, the Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair tournaments will all be ran in parity, with all participants receiving equal payment fees, and all 61 matches being broadcast live.

This shift marks a significant step forward for the future of international rugby league and it is hoped that the ‘most inclusive World Cup yet’ will help propel the sport to a whole new audience.

The Women’s World Cup final will be played as a curtain raiser to the Men’s Final at Old Trafford which, again, shows just how seriously the Women’s and Wheelchair games are now being taken, and rightly so.

Whether you’re a staunch rugby league follower, or you’ll be tuning into the sport for the first time, you do not want to miss RLWC2021.