The Banana Kick guide to the Rugby League World Cup 2017

What is it?

The Rugby League World Cup will be held for the 15th time in 2017. It will be contested by 14 teams.

Brisbane will host the final but in total 13 cities across Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea will host matches. They are:

Auckland, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Christchurch, Darwin, Hamilton, Melbourne, Perth, Port Moresby, Sydney, Townsville and Wellington

What to expect

Much has been made of the recently bolstered Tonga and world No.2 New Zealand leading into the Rugby League World Cup, but it’s potentially England who provide the biggest danger to Australia.

A strong NRL presence in the squad including champion half Gareth Widdop, a forward pack led by James Graham and Sam Burgess all being coached by ‘super coach’ Wayne Bennett could cause Australia problems in their own backyard as they look to retain their World Cup crown.

Wayne Bennett was assistant and advisor to a Stephen Kearney led New Zealand team in 2008, when New Zealand upset all the odds and beat Australia on home soil to claim Rugby League World Cup in 2008. He has the pedigree to lead England to victory, with positive noises coming out of the camp already settled in Australia.

England have never won the tournament.

Great Britain won the last of their three Cups in 1972.

England — captained by Sean O’Loughlin — open the tournament against Ashes rivals Australia in what is expected to be a fiery encounter they also play France and Lebanon in the group stage.

The USA ‘Tomahawks’ were the standout stars of the Rugby League World Cup 2013. With a mix of unheralded stars, a few wily NRL veterans, as an unknown quantity, the Tomahawks surprised the masses and went all the way to the quarterfinals with wins over Wales and the Cook Islands before they met the indomitable might of the Kangaroos.

Tonga, a nation that you wouldn’t have looked twice at during the last tournament, looks like the team most likely to upset the establishment, with an NRL-stacked line-up out to cause havoc including stars such as Jason Taumalolo.

Then, as always, powerhouses Australia, New Zealand and England will battle it out for the two remaining final spots, wary of the increased threat of the strengthened second tier nations.

The tournament can be predictable as fans expect a Kangaroo waltz to victory, however the one thing to expect is lots of big hits, some incredible athletes and mind-blowing tries. Nevertheless nothing is a guaranteed in sport.

Pool structure

This World Cup will feature a super pool concept where the top three teams in Group A (Australia, England, Lebanon, France) and Group B (New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland, Tonga) and the top team from Group C (PNG, Wales, Ireland) and Group D (Fiji, USA, Italy) will go through to the quarterfinals.

As well as playing each team in their group, sides from Group C and Group D will also play one game against a side from the opposing group.

Fixtures

October 27: Australia v England (Melbourne Rectangular Stadium).

October 28: PNG v Euro Q1 (Port Moresby).

October 28: New Zealand v Samoa (Mount Smart, Auckland).

October 28: Fiji v USA (Townsville Stadium).

October 29: Scotland v Tonga (Barlow Park, Cairns).

October 29: Euro Q2 v Euro Q3 (Barlow Park, Cairns).

October 29: France v Lebanon (Canberra Stadium).

November 3: Australia v France (Canberra Stadium).

November 4: New Zealand v Scotland (Christchurch Stadium).

November 4: Samoa v Tonga (Waikato Stadium, Hamilton).

November 4: England v Lebanon (Sydney Football Stadium).

November 5: PNG v Euro Q2 (Port Moresby).

November 5: Euro Q3 v USA (Townsville Stadium).

November 5: Fiji v Euro Q1 (Townsville Stadium).

November 10: Fiji v Euro Q3 (Canberra Stadium).

November 11: Samoa v Scotland (Barlow Park, Cairns).

November 11: New Zealand v Tonga (Waikato Stadium, Hamilton).

November 11: Australia v Lebanon (Sydney Football Stadium).

November 12: PNG v USA (Port Moresby).

November 12: Euro Q1 vs Euro Q2 (Perth Rectangular Stadium).

November 12: England v France (Perth Rectangular Stadium).

November 17: Quarter-final (Darwin Stadium).

November 18: Quarter-final (Christchurch Stadium).

November 18: Quarter-final (Wellington Regional Stadium).

November 19: Quarter-final: (Melbourne Rectangular Stadium).

November 24: Semi-final (Brisbane Stadium).

November 25: Semi-final (Mount Smart, Auckland).

December 2: Final (Brisbane Stadium).

Where to watch it

BBC Sport will bring you live coverage of Rugby League World Cup 2017 across various channels including BBC TV, radio, and online.

There will be live TV and radio coverage of every England group game, plus a quarter-final, one semi-final and the final. There will also be coverage of Scotland, Wales and Ireland’s matches and highlights from across the tournament.

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