The next stage of qualification for the 2021 World Cup has been revealed for Europe and the Americas.
France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales will meet in the 2018 European Championship, over three weekends in October and November, with the top two automatically qualifying for the main tournament, joining the eight quarter-finalists from 2017.
The nations finishing third and fourth will face Italy, the two top teams from Euro B, which features Russia, Serbia and Spain, as well as winners of Euro C (comprising six nations) in October and November in 2019.
The top two from the three-team pools will make the 2021 final, taking the total European representation up to seven of the 16 nations – the 2021 tournament expanded overall by two from 2017.
In the Americas, four nations are eligible for the qualifying tournament to be held towards the end of this year, with the recent granting to Chile of affiliate membership of the Asia Pacific confederation. The first South Americans to be included, they join Canada, Jamaica and the USA.
The winners of that will qualify for the World Cup finals, with the runners up having the option to host a World Play-Off group in late 2019.
David Collier, RLIF chief executive, commented: “The Rugby League International Federation is delighted to welcome new nations competing for World Cup qualification as the road to the 2021 Rugby League World Cup commences, in what we anticipate will be a highly competitive process.
“The integration of the calendar, with confirmation of fixtures for the next two years, is vitally important for all nations to plan their course and for the international game to continue to grow.”
Venues and dates are to be finalised, but the European Championship fixtures have been drawn as follows:
France v Wales
Ireland v Scotland
Scotland v Wales
Ireland v France
Wales v Ireland
France v Scotland