|Place: St James’ Park, Newcastle Dates: October 15, Saturday Start: 14:30 BST|
|Coverage: Watch live on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and online from 1.15pm BST; Live commentary from Radio 5 Live Sports Extra; live text and highlights on the BBC Sport website and app|
A World Cup win for England on home soil would be “massive” and success could “inspire generations of rugby players”, says captain Sam Tomkins.
The hosts face Samoa in their opening game in Newcastle on Saturday.
England, in their pre-Great Britain guise, have won the competition three times but not since 1972.
“We’re going to win. I don’t care what any other team brings, they’ve got fantastic teams, but so what? I don’t care, bring it,” Tomkins said.
The Catalans Dragons defender told BBC Radio 5 Live: “It would be fantastic, we want to win a World Cup and inspire generations of rugby players.
“There are kids who don’t know what they want to do when they grow up and if we succeed in this World Cup, a lot of kids will go to school saying ‘I want to be a rugby player’. That’s what we want to do.”
England will also face France on October 22 and debutant Greece on October 29 in Group A.
A total of 61 matches will be played across the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions, all of which will be broadcast live on the BBC.
England “definitely not” favorites against Samoa
As you cross the River Tyne into Newcastle, a huge poster advertising the game has been set up on a billboard, and the city itself is abuzz with excitement on the eve of the tournament.
A fan village is being prepared on the Quayside which will feature activities and live music, while England strikers Victor Radley and Tom Burgess were seen riding across the Swing Bridge on electric scooters.
Former England scrum-half Rob Burrow will be the guest of honor at the opening ceremony, while Brit Award winners Kaiser Chiefs will perform on the pitch at St James’ Park before kick-off on Saturday.
A crowd of around 45,000 is expected, but expectations could be dampened as England start as underdogs against a strong Samoan side, the strongest they have ever assembled.
Australia has seven NRL Grand Final players – five from champions Penrith Panthers, as well as captain Junior Paulo and runner-up Oregon Kaufusi full-back from Parramatta Eels.
England have beaten Samoa in their previous three meetings and asked if his side start as favourites, Tomkins said: “Definitely not.
“Samoa have got some stars in their squad and it’s the strongest they’ve ever had, that’s evident from the squad they’ve picked.
“It has become a tougher challenge for us, but one was looking forward.”
The Covid-19 pandemic forced the World Cup to be postponed by a year and since being appointed in February 2020, England boss Shaun Wane has been in charge of just three matches.
The former Wigan manager said: “The prospect is good. Traveling around the country showing people how good our game is, it’s a great opportunity.
“I think we have the best game in the world and the more people who watch it, the better. We’re on BBC terrestrial TV for every game. I want them to see the best of us, that’s the most important thing for me.”
Samoa boss Matt Parish added: “It’s a big occasion and we have to rise to it. I have no doubt they will.
“I’m sure we’ll improve as the competition goes on. You look at the other teams competing and it’s by far the strongest World Cup ever.
“It’s exciting to be involved, we’ve gained some confidence but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
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Elsewhere this weekend…
Australia’s defending champions and record 11-time winners open their campaign against Fiji at Headingley on Saturday (7.30pm BST).
Mal Meninga’s men have not played an international game since 2019 and the Kangaroos and New Zealand were withdrawn. “Player Welfare and Safety Concerns” Due to the Covid-19, the tournament was postponed for a year.
“I can’t speak for other people, but I know the leaders of our game are very excited about the World Cup,” Meninga told 5 Live.
“There’s a passion for the game and we feel the new frontier for our game is the international space. We’ve almost sold it out domestically, so we need to find a new frontier.”
Skipper James Tedesco, who played for his heritage country at the last two World Cups, told BBC Sport: “It’s been a big build-up so we’re excited to finally get this World Cup campaign under way.
“It’s not bigger than leading your country in the World Cup. Now the big challenge for me is to lead us to success. It’s a tough tournament, the strongest ever.”
Scotland v Italy (2.30pm at Kingston Park, Newcastle) – BBC Two
Jamaica v Ireland (5pm Headingley, Leeds) – BBC Two
New Zealand v Lebanon (7.30pm Halliwell Jones, Warrington) – Red Button, iPlayer and BBC Sport website