St Helens has been selected as a training location for two nations set to compete at the Rugby League World Cup 2021.
Tournament organisers have announced the 16 towns and cities across the country to act as training and team base camps, with St Helens joining major cities such as London, Manchester and Liverpool on the list.
St Helens Council’s state-of-the art Ruskin Drive Sports Village and Cowley International College have both been chosen as training venues during the tournament, which is tipped to be the biggest one yet. The tournament could boost St Helens’ economy by over £3m.
The £3.6m Ruskin Drive Sports Village in Dentons Green – which reopened in July 2017 following a major redevelopment – is home to a RFL-certified 3G floodlit artificial rugby pitch, while nearby Cowley International College boasts top-class training facilities to an international standard and is used by Super League leaders St Helens R.F.C.
Qualification is still ongoing across the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments and all nations will be confirmed in time for the draw, which takes place on November 27. Following the draw, each of the towns and cities will be allocated to a nation, allowing planning to commence for adopt a team initiatives and local community engagement events.
Welcoming the latest announcement, Mayor of St Helens Pat Ireland said: “This underscores St Helens’ place at the heart of this global celebration of rugby league. We will work to make sure the visiting teams pass on their skills to our grass roots.
“Ruskin Drive is one of the finest multi-purpose sports complexes in the region, and some of rugby league’s biggest stars train day in, day out at Cowley International College. The teams lucky enough to use these excellent facilities will certainly have everything they need to prepare properly for their games.
“Hosting Australia against Fiji in 2013 showed the world how welcoming St Helens is as a host for a major sporting event, and we’re more than ready to do it all again.”
St Helens R.F.C. Chief Executive Mike Rush said: “For the town to play host to two international rugby league teams is a huge honour.
“We look forward to learning about and embracing the culture this will bring to our community.”
Jon Dutton, RLWC2021 Chief Executive, commented: “RLWC2021 will see nations from all over the world travel to England to compete for the sport’s most prestigious prize. Today, we are really pleased to be able to announce which towns and cities will be used as hotel and training bases for the competing nations.
“Each chosen location submitted a compelling bid and our decisions represent our confidence in each of these towns and cities to provide a world-class host experience to the visiting nations in 2021.
“These chosen hosts will play such an important role in welcoming all teams and nations, offering them a base and helping them prepare in the best possible environment so they can perform at their peak on the pitch.”
Earlier this year, the borough was confirmed as one of 21 host venues at the Rugby League World Cup 2021, with St Helens R.F.C.’s 18,000-capacity Totally Wicked Stadium – considered to be the best purpose-built club rugby stadium in the country – securing three men’s group matches.