THERE will be three St Helens darters in this year’s prestigious William Hill World Darts Championship which starts next month.

Number eight seed Dave Chisnall drew Dutchman Vincent van der Voort in the opening round.

Michael Smith, ranked 13, will be looking for experience to count when he takes on Irish debutant Steve Lennon.

And Windle-based thrower Stephen Bunting, ranked 21, has been paired with new World Youth Champion Dimitri Van den Bergh.

That clash between the former Lakeside Champion and the young pretender will be a fascinating one.

Bunting has re-discovered some good form of late in recent tournaments which will do plenty to bolster his confidence ahead of this clash.

Away from the St Helens trio, it promises to be another huge tournament - and one that will mark the end of an era.

It is the last one for 57-year-old darts legend Phil Taylor, who will retire following the World Championship.

His aim is to bow out of the sport in a blaze of glory at Alexandra Palace on New Year’s Day.

But there will be plenty in his way.

The 16-time World Champion has been drawn against one of the sport’s top young prospects for the first round as he takes on Bedlington’s Dobey, the world number 38.

“It will be a big challenge for me,” said Taylor. “Chris has made massive strides in the last couple of years and is wanting to make his mark, but I can go up there relaxed because I’ve nothing to lose.

“It’s my final World Championship and I want to enjoy it.”

Dobey, 27, was a quarter-finalist in the 2016 Grand Slam of Darts and reached the second round on his World Championship debut last year, but is rated at 500/1 with sponsors William Hill to go all the way at Alexandra Palace.

Reigning champion Van Gerwen, the 4/5 pre-tournament favourite with William Hill, will begin his challenge to claim a third Alexandra Palace triumph against former Lakeside Champion Kist.

Number two seed Peter Wright has drawn debutant Diogo Portela, who will become the first Brazilian to compete in the World Championship next month after making his breakthrough in 2017.

Two-time World Champion Gary Anderson, whose bid to claim a third successive title was ended by Van Gerwen in last year’s final, will take on the winner of the preliminary round meeting between Canada’s Jeff Smith and young Englishman Luke Humphries, the 2017 PDC Unicorn Development winner.

First Round Draw & Tournament Bracket: (1) Michael van Gerwen v Christian Kist, (32) James Wilson v Krzystof Ratajski, (16) Gerwyn Price v Ted Evetts, (17) Ian White v Willard Bruguier/Cody Harris, (8) Dave Chisnall v Vincent van der Voort, (25) Steve Beaton v William O’Connor, (9) Raymond van Barneveld v Richard North, (24) Kyle Anderson v Peter Jacques, (5) Mensur Suljovic v Kevin Painter, (28) Robert Thornton v Alan Ljubic/Brendan Dolan, (12) Jelle Klaasen v Jan Dekker, (21) Stephen Bunting v Dimitri Van den Bergh, (4) Daryl Gurney v Ronny Huybrechts, (29) John Henderson v Marko Kantele, (13) Michael Smith v Steve Lennon, (20) Rob Cross v Seigo Asada/Gordon Mathers, (2) Peter Wright v Diogo Portela, (31) Jonny Clayton v Kenny Neyens/Jamie Lewis, (15) Alan Norris v Kim Viljanen, (18) Kim Huybrechts v James Richardson, (7) Adrian Lewis v Aleksandr Oreshkin/Kevin Munch, (26) Cristo Reyes v Antonio Alcinas, (10) Simon Whitlock v Martin Schindler, (23) Darren Webster v Devon Petersen, (6) Phil Taylor v Chris Dobey, (27) Justin Pipe v Xiao Chen Zong/Bernie Smith, (11) James Wade v Keegan Brown, (22) Mervyn King v Zoran Lerchbacher, (3) Gary Anderson v Jeff Smith/Luke Humphries,(30) Mark Webster v Kai Fan Leung/Paul Lim,(14) Benito van de Pas v Steve West,(19) Joe Cullen v Jermaine Wattimena.