Australia to open rugby league title defense vs Fiji in 2021

LEEDS, England (AP) — Australia will begin the defense of its Rugby League World Cup crown against Fiji in Hull next year.

The 2017 champion’s first match — a rematch of their 2017 semifinal — will be on Oct. 23, just hours after the tournament’s opening match between host England and Samoa at St James’ Park, Newcastle.

Australia, which has won 11 of the 15 men’s World Cups, also faces Scotland in Coventry, and Italy in St. Helens in Group B.

England will also face France in Bolton and debutant Greece in Sheffield in Group A.

New Zealand, the 2008 champion, has Lebanon in Warrington, and Jamaica and Ireland in Leeds in Group C.

Tonga, a semifinalist in 2017, heads Group D with Papua New Guinea, Wales and the Cook Islands.

The Rugby League World Cup is combining with women’s and wheelchair competitions for the first time.

The women begin on Nov. 9 in Leeds, and the wheelchair on Nov. 11 in the Copper Box at the 2012 Olympics site in London.

Old Trafford in Manchester will host the men’s and women’s doubleheader final on Nov. 27.

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