England to face defending champions Australia

Auckland looks forward to welcoming rugby league fans next year, when it hosts two matches in the Rugby League World Cup 2017 (RLWC2017).

Organisers unveiled the cup draw on Monday in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

Rugby league enjoys massive support and sponsorship potential in Australia, the perennial top nation, but isn't as large or prestigious as rugby union's world cup, which is a bigger and better-backed sport globally.

The World Cup will take place in Australia, New Zealand and Papau New Guinea from October 27 to December 2 next year.

Michael Brown, CEO of the Rugby League World Cup 2017 said in a statement: "The Seven Network is widely renowned as a leader in sports broadcasting and the Rugby League World Cup 2017 Organising Committee is excited by the opportunities that this partnership presents to both the tournament and the sport as a whole".

There are 11 teams in the tournament so far, with three final countries to fill out Pools C and D coming from a European qualifying tournament later this year.

The runner-up in each group will play off for the final World Cup spot with the play-off victor to join Fiji and U.S. in Pool D.

The 14 teams at the World Cup will play a total of 28 games at 13 different venues in three countries over five weeks. The tournament is traditionally dominated by Australia with New Zealand and England providing the sternest competition.

The Penrose venue will host two matches, with Eden Park being overlooked for Auckland games.

There will be three double-headers in Cairns, Perth and Townsville, providing additional value for money for fans.

The qualifier will be decided in November, with Wales, Ireland, Russia, Serbia, Italy and Spain all in the running to make it.

Tonga will play two matches in Hamilton - first a pacific clash against Samoa then a match versus the Kiwis to round out pool action.

Christchurch will host its first global matches since the 2006 Tri-Nations, with the New Zealand-Scotland pool game and a quarter-final - likely to be between Samoa/Tonga and Fiji - to be staged in the South Island city. The Scottish actually knocked Tonga out of the previous World Cup, going into the quarter-finals, while Samoa finished ahead of France in their group.

The 10-time and reigning world champions Australia will take on England at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium in the opening game of the tournament and the stakes couldn't be higher.

And Darwin also gets a quarter-final. They ran into a red-hot New Zealand side in the quarter-finals to end a very successful tournament and they'll be looking to equal that achievement in 2017.

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