Auto Poster Tonga join Kiwis as top seeds in expanded World Cup format revealed for 2021

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Apr 23, 2013

Andrew Fifita leads the Tongan Sipi Tau before their test with Australia in Auckland last month.

Tonga will join New Zealand as top seeds alongside England and Australia in an expanded Rugby League World Cup format in 2021.

Details of the draw were unveiled on Monday (Tuesday NZ time) following a four-day congress of the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) in York.

The World Cup, which the Kangaroos won last year, has been increased from 14 to 16 teams, making for a simpler format, with the top two teams from each of the four pools going through to the quarter-finals.


Kiwis prop Jesse Bromwich facing up to England's James Graham in third test in Leeds last weekend.

New Zealand's 2017 campaign ended disastrously as the Kiwis were knocked out by Fiji in the last eight, while Tonga ignited interested in the tournament with top players from both Australia and New Zealand instead representing the Pacific Island nation in their run to the semi-finals.

* Rapana out for six months
* Vatuvei to box Buttabean
* Maguire: Tonga for Origin
* Kiwis' tour player ratings
* Kiwis crush England

The draws for all three World Cups, including the women's and wheelchair events, will be made in England on November 27, 2019, exactly two years before the 2021 final.


Kodi Nikorima shines as the Kiwis thrash England 34-0 to avoid a series whitewash.

The second pot will feature tier two teams Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Fiji, and Lebanon, who all qualified automatically after reaching the last eight of the 2017 tournament jointly held in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

The final two pots will feature qualifiers, based on their world ranking, including the two most recently qualified sides, France and Wales.

After failing to win through from the European championship, Ireland and Scotland hope to secure qualification at the second attempt in 2019, while the United States, Chile, Jamaica, and Canada will provide one qualifier from the Americas championship in Jacksonville this week.


Stars like Jason Taumalolo opted to instead represent Tonga at the last World Cup.

It will be the first time the men's tournament will include 16 teams since 2000.

The women's tournament will begin on the men's quarterfinal weekend in 2021.

"One of our main aims was to hold the most inclusive Rugby League World Cup of all time, and I'm delighted that we have that confirmed," Rugby League World Cup chief executive Jon Dutton said.

"It was important for us to demonstrate a commitment to tier two nations, and growing maturity for the World Cup with a clearer format."

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