MX23RW : Sunday, February 17 02:22:06

World Cup will have a northern edge in 2021

World Cup will have a northern edge in 2021
© Reuters
Only two of 31 ties will take place south of Sheffield.

The 2021 World Cup will be almost exclusively based in the north of England, with just two of the 31 matches taking place south of Sheffield.

Wembley has been ignored but the Emirates Stadium in London will host rugby league for the first time, with the home of Arsenal handed one of the semi-finals, while Coventry will stage a group match at the Ricoh Arena.

The rest of the matches will take place deep in rugby league's traditional heartland, with occasional forays into the north-east, as organisers comfortably meet a Government target of holding at least 80% of the tournament in the Northern Powerhouse.

Arsenal v Manchester City – Premier League – Emirates Stadium
Rugby league is coming to the Emirates Stadium (Nick Potts/PA)

It is a far cry from 2013, the last time the Rugby Football League organised the World Cup, when matches were staged in such far-flung places as Limerick, Neath, Bristol and Avignon.

This time, despite an increase in the number of teams from 14 to 16, organisers opted not to venture outside England and, after landing a £25million grant from the Government, agreed to concentrate on the north.

Among other eye-catching venues from the announcement in Manchester on Tuesday morning, Elland Road will stage the other semi-final while Old Trafford will again host the final after drawing a crowd of 74,468 in 2013 for the clash between Australia and New Zealand.

Manchester United v Newcastle United – Premier League – Old Trafford
Old Trafford will host the 2021 World Cup final (Martin RIckett/PA)

Newcastle's St James' Park, which has lost the lucrative Magic Weekend to Anfield this year, has won the right to stage the opening ceremony, which will be followed by the opening game featuring England.

Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium is something of a surprise choice while organisers will take three matches to a purpose-built 8,000-capacity stadium in Workington.

The stadium, to be developed by Allerdale Borough Council, is expected to be completed by the spring of 2021 at a cost of £15million and will be the new home for both League One club Workington and the town's football team.

Middlesbrough v Huddersfield Town – Sky Bet Championship – Riverside Stadium
The Riverside Stadium, home of Middlesbrough (PA Archive)

The men's, women's and wheelchair tournaments will all be played concurrently for the first time, with the women's final taking place as a double-header with the men's event at Old Trafford.

Liverpool's M&S Bank Arena Liverpool will host the wheelchair final.

Jon Dutton, chief executive of Rugby League World Cup 2021, said: "This was an incredibly tough process given the large number of interested parties and the impressive nature of their bids.

"With so many competitive bids, we're confident that our chosen hosts will help play a role in delivering the greatest, and most inclusive, Rugby League World Cup of all time."

Hull KR v Hull FC – Betfred Super League – Magic Weekend – St James' Park
Rugby league is not new to St James' Park (PA Archive)

The draw will take place on November 27, two years out from the final, and venues are:

Group matches – Bolton, St Helens 3, Warrington 3, Leigh 3, Coventry, Doncaster 3, Workington 3, Leeds (Headingley) 3, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Hull (KCOM), Sheffield (Bramall Lane).

Quarter-finals – Bolton, Liverpool (Anfield), Huddersfield, Hull (KCOM).

Semi-finals – Leeds (Elland Road), London Emirates.

Final: Old Trafford.

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