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The Kiwis are coming...Sonny Bill Williams and Co to train in St Helens
10:14am Thursday 17th October 2013 in News
SOME of rugby league’s biggest global stars will be in St Helens next week as the countdown to the sport’s World Cup gathers pace.
New Zealand, the cup holders, will use Saints’ Cowley training complex at Hard Lane to prepare ahead of their opening fixture with Samoa in Warrington on Sunday, October 27.
The Kiwis include dual international Sonny Bill Williams – arguably the sport’s biggest name and among its most explosive players – who was set to miss the tournament before performing a dramatic u-turn and asking to be instated in a squad that had already been named.
News of their presence in the town, which has been under wraps until now, significantly boosts St Helens’ involvement in the RLWC 2013.
The town hosts a group match on Saturday, November 2 when Australia play Fiji – teams packed with athletes from the NRL competition Down Under – and organisers hope a growing momentum for the tournament will see a surge in ticket sales next week.
A considerable amount of community projects surrounding the event are also in development, with 30 pupils from The Sutton Academy school and 20 cheerleaders from the Sutton tornados are involved in a major dance project.
And there will also be two World Cup themed dinners at Langtree Park, one featuring the Great Britain 1972 winning team on November 28, and another with Aussie legend and former Saints player Mal Meninga on November 6.
After a hugely disappointing World Cup in 2000, the last time it was on British soil, there is optimism a successful tournament will reinvigorate rugby league and, with many of the big games being screened on terrestrial BBC, capture a new audience.
The clash between the Kangaroos and the Bati, meanwhile, will be the first match staged at the £30m Langtree Park, since completion of the club’s significant investment on installing cladding to the perimeters of previously open stands.
The Saints chairman Eamonn McManus is certainly striking a positive note, saying this week that “St Helens is privileged to host such a prestigious fixture” and play a part in what he is confident will be “the most successful Rugby League World Cup to date”.
He added: “I have never been so optimistic about the game’s potential to grow and improve as I am today.
“We have a mouth-watering time ahead of us with some of the greatest rugby league players in history from all over the world gracing our stadia and opening the eyes of a new British sporting audience, as well appealing to existing fans.”
RLWC2013 kicks off at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, October 26 with a double header that sees England vs Australia and Italy vs Wales at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.