Rugby League World Cup 2021 draw: England drawn with Samoa, France and Greece

England playing Australia in the 2017 World Cup final
England, captained by the now-retired Sam Burgess, lost 6-0 to Australia in the 2017 World Cup final
Rugby League World Cup 2021
Dates: 23 October to 27 November 2021 Coverage: All 31 matches of the men's World Cup will be broadcast live by the BBC, with at least 16 games on BBC One or BBC Two.

Hosts England have been drawn alongside Samoa, France and Greece in the group stage of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

England will play Samoa in the opening match of the tournament at St James' Park, Newcastle on 23 October.

Australia, who beat England in the 2017 final, are in Group B and have been drawn with Fiji, Scotland and Italy.

Meanwhile, 1995 and 2000 semi-finalists Wales have been drawn alongside Tonga, Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands.

New Zealand, who were knocked out by Fiji in the 2017 quarter-finals, will face Lebanon, Jamaica and Ireland.

The Duke of Sussex, Jason Robinson and Dame Katherine Grainger conducted Thursday's draw at Buckingham Palace.

The draw was the first public appearance that Rugby Football League patron Prince Harry has made since announcing last week that he was stepping away from senior royal duties.

Women's and wheelchair sides learn opponents

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Sport should be part of everyone's life - Prince Harry

The 2021 World Cup will be the first time in the sport's history that the men's, women's and wheelchair events will be staged concurrently.

The men's and women's finals will also be played as a double header at Old Trafford, Manchester, on 27 November.

England will get the women's tournament under way when they take on Brazil at Headingley, Leeds, on 9 November.

The hosts have also been drawn alongside Papua New Guinea and Canada, while in Group B, holders Australia will take on New Zealand, France and the Cook Islands.

Finally, in the wheelchair World Cup, England will open the tournament against Australia on 11 November at London's Copper Box Arena, with Spain and Norway making up the rest of their group.

France, Wales, Scotland and the United States form Group B, with the final taking place at Liverpool's M&S Bank Arena on 26 November.

Jon Dutton, chief executive at Rugby League World Cup 2021 said: "We want to deliver a truly world class event next year and we're really excited by the first three fixtures that have come out from today's draws.

"We look forward to announcing the full schedule of games along with ticket prices in the next few months."

Prince Harry 'in jovial mood'

Analysis: BBC Sport's Shamoon Hafez at Buckingham Palace

Newspapers and news bulletins have been filled with reaction to last week's announcement made by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex that they intend to step back as senior royals and split their time between the UK and Canada.

But Prince Harry was in jovial mood as he attended Buckingham Palace to conduct the 2021 Rugby League World Cup draw. He was not doing any media interviews but a cheeky journalist shouted out: "Harry, how are talks going about your future?" He brushed off the question with a loud laugh.

Inside, he met with representatives from all 21 nations competing in the event next year. Comedian Adam Hills was there for Australia and Prince Harry commented on Hills' beard, saying: "One of the best manicured and styled beards I have ever seen."

He was all smiles during the draw itself, getting a good laugh from the watching crowd when he made the point of stirring the balls in the pot and then hiding his face.

Duke of Sussex conducting the World Cup draw
The Duke of Sussex is patron of the Rugby Football League

Can England win on home soil?

The 2021 tournament is the first time that England have hosted the event since 2013, when they lost to New Zealand in agonising fashion in the semi-final.

Shaun Johnson touched down with a last-minute try as the then-defending champions stunned a vociferous home crowd at Wembley.

That defeat marked the third time in a row that England were eliminated at the semi-final stage at a World Cup, with all of their losses coming against the Kiwis.

Under head coach Wayne Bennett, England reached their first final for 22 years in 2017. However, they were defeated by hosts Australia in a tightly-fought final which saw the Kangaroos narrowly win 6-0.

Going into 2021, it is still unclear whether Bennett will lead England into the tournament, having overseen a winless Great Britain Lions tour of New Zealand, which saw the side lose all four of their matches, including both Tests against the Kiwis.

Men's draw

Group A: England, Samoa, France, Greece

Group B: Australia, Fiji, Scotland, Italy

Group C: New Zealand, Lebanon, Jamaica, Ireland

Group D: Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Wales, Cook Islands

Women's draw

Group A: England, Papua New Guinea, Canada, Brazil

Group B: Australia, New Zealand, France, Cook Islands

Wheelchair draw

Group A: England, Australia, Spain, Norway

Group B: France, Wales, Scotland, USA

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