Countdown to World Cup begins
The countdown to the 2013 World Cup began in earnest when the trophy began a tour that organisers hope will be witnessed by four million people.
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Former Great Britain winger Martin Offiah helped launch the tour at Huddersfield's historic George Hotel, where local schoolchildren re-enacted the famous meeting of 1895 where northern clubs took the decision to break away from the Rugby Football Union to form rugby league.
The 61cm silver-plated trophy, which originally cost eight million French francs and is currently valued at £500,000, will be on view nationwide for the next 13 months, with Downing Street and the Welsh national assembly among its stopping-off points.
"This has given the trophy a terrific send-off," said tournament director Nigel Wood. "It's been an absolutely terrific event and an uplifting experience for all concerned.
"I'm sure wherever it goes, it will be a big draw. With the itinerary that has been drawn up, it will seen and touched by four million people.
"It will go to all four countries playing host to group matches, including France and Ireland, each one of the 25 towns and cities who are acting as either hosts or venues will have the benefit of a minimum of three visits."
The 14-team tournament, which is being jointly hosted by England and Wales, will get under way in Cardiff on October 26 next year and culminate in the final at Old Trafford on November 30.
Organisers have yet to announce a sponsor but Wood believes the tournament, which was last held in this country in 2000, is geared up to be a major success.
"We've put a lot of effort into this," he said. "I don't remember previous international rugby league tournaments having the same degree of pre-planning.
"Ticket go on sale on October 26th and we're in as good a shape as we could be in terms of staging a world-class event.
"It's a terrific opportunity for rugby league to put on its glad rags and to represent itself as one of the best sports in the country."
Offiah, who played in the 1992 and 1995 World Cups during his career with Widnes and Wigan and will perform an ambassadorial role in 2013, believes rugby league is well placed to capitalise on the feel-good factor generated by the Olympics and Paralympics.
"We all know what has happened this summer and I think the Rugby League are definitely trying feed off that enthusiasm and fervour," he said.
"There are some big venues and, as long as we fill all these stadiums and (England coach) Steve McNamara and the boys put on a good performance, it will be a good time for rugby league."
England begin their preparations for 2013 tomorrow when they set off for South Africa for the first of two high-altitude training camps and will meet France and Wales in their autumn internationals when they return.