The 2021 World Cup to be played exclusively in England

The 2021 World Cup is set to be played exclusively in England, with 80 per cent of the fixtures in the north.

Organisers will also break with tradition by not starting the tournament with a blockbusting clash between England and Australia.

Previous World Cups hosted by the Rugby Football League in 1995, 2000 and 2013 included fixtures in France, Wales and Ireland but government funding will dictate a change in policy for 2021.

"I think it's fair to say we won't be going to France," tournament director Jon Dutton told a media briefing in MediaCityUK. "The £25million that has come into the tournament is money for England.

"It's a devolved budget. So it's the same with Ireland and Wales. If a really compelling bid comes to the table, we will have a real good look at it but I don't anticipate that will be the case."

There will be a total of 65 matches in 2021, including women and wheelchair events, over five weeks but organisers envisage 14 venues for the 31 fixtures for the men's tournament, down from 21 in 2013.

Dutton says London will definitely stage games and hints that fixtures could also be held in the seven major cities across the north.

"The sport in 1895 was born in the north and we should be really proud of our heritage so we've got to find the right balance between celebrating that and also getting a cut-through across the rest of England," he said.

"We have had 40 expressions of interest, that is probably now about 30, so we're going to have some really tough decisions to make. I've been blown away by the level of interest."

Dutton says the emphasis will be moving venues from towns into cities and into bigger stadia as organisers look to reach a target audience of three-quarters of a million.

There is a July 31 deadline for applications to act as hosts while a decision will be made in December and an announcement next January.

Organisers will also break with tradition by avoiding a clash between the holders and hosts to start the tournament.

The number of teams will be up by two to 16 and Dutton envisages four pools of four.

"It is for the International Federation to decide but our preference will be for the top four nations, including Tonga, to be the seeded teams," he added.

"I anticipate that we will not start the tournament with England versus Australia, I think they will be in different groups."

Qualifying will be completed by November 2019 when Dutton wants to stage a big draw.

The 2021 World Cup has been boosted by a £10million government grant which organisers say will be used to ensure a lasting legacy.

The money was promised in 2015 as part of the establishment of the northern powerhouse and will be distributed in partnership with Sport England.

"We have £10million that the sport will spend entirely in the community of rugby league," Dutton said.

"It's brand new money that will be divided into small grants to encourage the community to set up more junior and girls teams or for big transformational projects, which might be a new clubhouse or new synthetic pitch."

Bids open on October 23, three years out from the opening of the tournament, but clubs are invited to express their interest now and Dutton expects the scheme to be oversubscribed.

"It's one strand of a really comprehensive legacy programme," added Dutton, who says the grants will be worth double with matched contributions from recipients.

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