England to face Australia in Rugby League World Cup opener

England is set to play against Australia in the opening match of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

Australia is also hosts for the 15th edition of the tournament, alongside New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

The event begins on 27 October, and England is also set to face Lebanon and France in Pool A.

14 spots remain available through qualifiers.

England prop James Graham relishes the challenge of facing a difficult opponent in the opening game of the tournament.

“Australia first off the bat in Melbourne is going to be a great spectacle,” he said.

“They have set the standard in terms of international rugby league for the majority of the last 30 or 40 years,” he conceded.

“New Zealand have won the odd tournament here and there but the Kangaroos have been the sport’s dominant force, so playing them first up in their own back yard in Melbourne is a great way to kick the tournament off.”

However, the hosts had come under criticism after it was revealed that the rugby league stronghold of Sydney will hold only two matches. Michael Brown, chief executive officer of the event said that the New South Wales government was not insistent on playing more games there.

He also supported the idea to spread fixtures across the continent.

“It is about the involvement of each of the governments willing to host matches and sadly that didn’t happen in NSW,” he said.

“The decision to take matches to places like Darwin, Christchurch and Port Moresby was made with the future of the game in mind. They are matches we believe will give profile to the sport in markets that have already shown an appetite for rugby league.”

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