Women's Rugby League World Cup set to start in Sydney

Australia celebrate winning the 2013 tournament

Women’s Rugby League World Cup on the BBC
Venues: Australia
Dates: 16 November to 2 December
Coverage: Selected previews and reports on the BBC website.

England are one of six teams competing at the Women’s World Cup, which starts in Sydney on Thursday.

The Lionesses open their campaign with the first of three group matches – against Papua New Guinea.

The tournament comprises six teams across two groups of three, with the top two in each qualifying for the semi-finals.

The final will take place in Brisbane on 2 December as part of a double-header, with the women’s match followed by the men’s final.

Who is competing?

Although England start against PNG they are not actually in the same group.

The opener is England’s inter-group game, with their other two fixtures against their Group A opponents.

Australia's Ruan Sims in action against New Zealand

The Lionesses are in a group with host nation Australia – known as the Jillaroos – and the Cook Islands.

Canada, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea are the three teams in Group B.

All of the group games take place at the Southern Cross Group Stadium – often referred to as Endeavour Park – in Cronulla, Sydney.

Effectively, they take the form of three triple-headers, with games on 16, 19 and 22 November.

The semi-finals take place on the same day – 26 November – in Cronulla.

And, as mentioned earlier, the final will be at the famous Lang Park in Brisbane. That game takes place at 05:45 GMT on 2 December, with the men’s game at 09:00 GMT.

Who is going to win?

Would it be a surprise to discover Australia are the hot favourites?

A bit like their country’s men’s team, the Jillaroos are regarded as being at the top of their game, with Ruan Sims – sister of Fiji internationals Ashton, Korbin and Tariq – and the hard-hitting Kezie Apps among their stars.

This time last year, Sims signed the first paid contract in women’s rugby league, a one-year deal with NRL side Cronulla Sharks.

And it is a pretty busy month for the family, with Ashton preparing for Fiji’s quarter-final against New Zealand on Saturday in the men’s competition.

New Zealand’s Kiwi Ferns have dished out a few surprise defeats to the Aussies in recent years – including the 2015 Anzac Day Test – and have tri-code international Honey Hireme among their talents. She is often referred to as ‘Honey Bill Williams’ in reference to male cross-code international Sonny.

England are a solid bet to qualify from their group, with much of their squad selected from the inaugural Women’s Super League clubs, including Grand Finalists Bradford and Featherstone.

Bradford Bulls celebrate winning the 2017 Grand Final

They are coached by Chris Chapman and captained by Andrea Dobson, who is set to make her fourth World Cup appearance having played in the competition for the first time as a 16-year-old in 2003.

Ten of the players in the England squad come from the Bradford Bulls side that won this year’s Grand Final.

Canada, Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea, who have ex-Jillaroo Amelia Kuk in their side, are likely have their work cut out to challenge the ‘big three’.

Does this tournament have much history?

The men’s tournament – which started on 27 October – is in its 15th edition, having first taken place in 1954.

The history of the women’s competition isn’t quite so long, but this year’s tournament is the fifth time it has been played.

If you look at the previous winners, you’ll notice a distinctly southern hemisphere flavour – New Zealand won the first three, with Australia getting on the board in 2013.

Indeed, when the tournament was played in 2013 there were just four teams, with the top two in a group of four going straight through to the final.

Matches were played in the Yorkshire towns of Dewsbury, Featherstone, Batley and Hunslet before the final took place at Headingley, Leeds. The entire competition lasted nine days – so, in comparison, the 2017 version feels on another level entirely.

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