SBW can lift RL World Cup sales: Dutton

Ian Laybourn

Chief executive Jon Dutton is hoping the presence of Sonny Bill Williams will help his team reach their target of 750,000 ticket sales for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

The former All Black, fresh from his appearance in the Rugby Union World Cup in Japan, will be back playing in the northern hemisphere for the next two years after joining Super League newcomers Toronto Wolfpack.

Williams helped New Zealand reach the 2013 World Cup final at Old Trafford during his second stint in the 13-man code and could also represent Samoa, the birthplace of his father John.

"We would love him to play," Dutton said. "It's a great thing for rugby league because he's an iconic player.

"I saw some pictures of him at Leigh when preparing for the World Cup final in 2013 and it's a great story for rugby league full stop."

Dutton was addressing the media at a World Cup update at Old Trafford on Wednesday, two years to the day to the final of the next World Cup.

It replaced the planned public draw, which will now be held on January 16.

Dutton says his team, which he expects to expand to a full-time staff of 40 in 2020, have learned lessons from both the 2013 and 2017 events, which were held in England and Australasia respectively, in an effort to make the next World Cup the biggest and best.

The team has already taken the trophies on a tour of Jamaica, who have qualified for the first time, and Nigeria and their next stop is Sao Paulo in Brazil, who will be taking part in the women's World Cup for the first time in 2021.

Organisers will begin allocating venues for both camps and matches once the draw is made and Dutton says they have been inundated with requests to host Tonga fixtures.

The number of teams has gone up from 14 to 16, producing four pools of four, with two from each group progressing to the quarter-finals.

England, Australia, New Zealand and Tonga will be pre-allocated to the groups and the draw will allocate the rest as follows: pot 1 - Fiji, Lebanon, Papua New Guinea and Samoa; pot 2 - France, Jamaica, Scotland and Wales; pot 3 - Cook Islands, Greece, Ireland and Italy.