Playing in the Rugby League World Cup is the pinnacle of a player’s career, Jason Robinson said on the day the 2021 tournament fixtures were announced.
The fixtures for next year’s tournament – which will see the men’s, women’s, and wheelchair tournaments all taking place at the same time – were revealed on Tuesday morning, with the England men’s team kicking things off against Samoa at St James’ Park on October 23.
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Robinson, who was unveiled as an International Ambassador of the event last year, is a dual code international who represented England at World Cups in rugby league and union, and says there’s nothing that matches it.
“I know what the players are thinking now, they’ll know where they’re going to be playing, what dates, and the excitement just starts to build,” Robinson told Sky Sports.
“Playing in a Rugby League World Cup is the pinnacle of anybody’s career. I can just feel the players now thinking ‘just over 12 months’ time, this is what it’s all about’.
“The biggest stage in rugby league, all eyes are going to be on the games… it’s going to be a massive, massive tournament.”
Jodie Cunningham, the England international who is also an ambassador for the World Cup, says seeing the fixtures makes things “real”, and hopes the women can take advantage of the chance to play alongside the men in a first-ever double header final at Old Trafford.
“We’ve had a lot of exciting announcements; we had the draw in January and had the host-city announcements where the nations will be based not too long ago,” Cunningham said.
“But I think having the fixtures, being able to put a date in your diary and say ‘this is when I’m going to be playing; this venue, this date’, that’s really exciting, that makes it all real.
“As a player, hopefully I will be part of that England squad. Now it’s where you really start building, and training and everything else becomes really real for you.
“I know all the girls are really excited; the chance to play at Headingley and Anfield – hopefully at Old Trafford. It’s just really amazing for us, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we need to make sure we take hold of.
“It’s going to be a really big occasion. We just need to make sure we can handle the pressure. Being in these big stadiums with big home crowds is really going to be a huge difference for some of the women, so it’s just making sure we’re ready for that but also enjoy it as well.”
Cunningham was part of the team that took part in the 2013 tournament in England, and says there are stark differences between what facilities and venues the women had at that World Cup compared to next year’s.
“It’s completely different,” she said. “We played in 2013 in England at the Women’s World Cup and we were based in Leeds. As an athlete it was outstanding to play in my first ever World Cup, it was amazing.
“But comparing that to what the women have got now for 2021, it is just a million miles apart. I just feel privileged that I’m hopefully going to be part of the squad, I’m building towards it and I’m just about keeping in age-wise to have a chance to play in that World Cup.
“Because it really is groundbreaking for the women, there’s so many firsts for the game.
“Hopefully we get a lot of new people watching the women’s game and involved in it and enjoying it because it is a great sport and rugby league’s a family game and the more people watching the sport, taking part in the sport, the better.”
Robinson says the decision to host the three World Cups alongside each other will make next year’s event the biggest and best the sport has seen.
“This is what the players want to do; play on the biggest stages against the best teams and show what they are capable of doing,” Robinson said.
“Not just for the men. Jodie has talked about the women playing there, which is fantastic, and also the wheelchair tournament. It’s going to be the most inclusive Rugby World Cup ever.
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