Updated: Sunday, 5th April 2020 @ 7:32am

Rugby League World Cup begins one year countdown with Manchester-based 'Google hangout'

Rugby League World Cup begins one year countdown with Manchester-based 'Google hangout'

By Thomas McCooey

The Rugby League World Cup started its one-year countdown in Manchester with a Google hangout involving players from all 14 participating nations on Friday.

The tournament kicked off on October 26 at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, but Manchester has been given the showpiece fixture of the event as the final is to be staged at Old Trafford on November 30.

The hangout featured ten players linked to the event via a big screen, from as far and wide as the USA and Australia, with the home nations players attending in person.

Tickets also went on sale for all of the tournament’s 28 games, with early figures showing the final is already outselling the other games by roughly five tickets to one.

England prop, Eorl Crabtree of Huddersfield Giants is hopeful the World Cup can capture the imagination of the public in the same way this year’s Olympic Games did. “We’re talking about performing well and hopefully coming away with something but as is being talked about with the Olympics it’s also about legacy,” he said.

“We want the fans and even non-rugby league fans to really get behind us and make a spectacle of it.”

Rugby League World Cup general manager, Sally Bolton said that they are hoping to sell-out every game, which would mean shifting half a million tickets, no mean feat for a sport which is still seen as the North’s best-kept secret.

However, Crabtree, a 6’6” giant, who ties his hair back into a ponytail when on the rugby field, is hopeful the  World Cup will encourage the wider public to embrace the sport: “We want to do something special ourselves and we want the public to realise and appreciate what we do as well because it’s such a great sport that just seems unappreciated at times and I think it’s actually up to us now to do something about it.”

Crabtree was photographed holding the World Cup trophy before the countdown began at MediaCityUK, with the backdrop of Old Trafford visible across the quays. The trophy currently in use is the 1954 original, commissioned by French Rugby League president, Paul Barriere, at a cost of eight million francs and having rugby league’s Holy Grail in his grip gave Crabtree a buzz.

“I’ve just had two operations (for a shoulder injury) so it was pretty heavy but it’s something I would love to do towards the back end of the season - I’ve never done it and to get my hands on something like that just spurs you on.”

Manchester will play a key role in the rugby league calendar in 2013, as both the Etihad Stadium and Old Trafford will stage events which have the potential to capture the more casual rugby league spectators.

The Eithad Stadium will host the Magic Weekend in mid-season, where all seven Super League fixtures of a round will be played at the same venue over one weekend, whilst before the World Cup Final, Old Trafford will also host the Grand Final to decide the Super League champions.

Crabtree was also involved in a Manchester-based marketing campaign leading up to last season’s Old Trafford finale, where he was feature in the Rugby League of the Extraordinary poster campaign. It’s something he hopes will give the sport momentum in the city before it features so importantly in the game’s calendar.

“I really enjoyed everything about it and it needs to carry on and make people aware of what we do.”

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