Tees Valley will play host to Tonga versus the Cook Islands men’s group stage match for next year’s Rugby League World Cup, it was today (July 21) revealed.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen welcomed the news of the fixture, which will be played at Middlesbrough Football Club’s Riverside Stadium at 2.30pm on Sunday 7 November 2021.
The two teams, both from islands in the South Pacific Ocean, have faced each other 12 times previously, with world number-four ranked team Tonga winning 11 of those head-to-heads.
The announcement comes just over a month after it was revealed that the Cook Islands would be based in Tees Valley while they compete in the seven-week tournament. The Cook Islands take their name from Middlesbrough-born Captain James Cook, who visited many of the nation’s southern islands.
The Rugby League World Cup 2021 is looking to deliver the biggest and best Rugby League tournament ever and the event could give Tees Valley an economic boost of up to £8million, attracting tens of thousands of international rugby fans to the area.
Tickets are available on pre-sale from September 21 for ten days, before going on general sale after that.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “I’m delighted that we have secured a major Rugby League World Cup fixture and Tonga versus Cook Islands will play at Boro’s Riverside Stadium next year.
“This is a great opportunity to show off our region all the way across the other side of the world and, with Tonga ranked number four in the world, we have some top-quality rugby to look forward to.
“The Cook Islands and Tonga are practically neighbours, and it’s a real honour to be hosting a South Pacific derby right here.
“Both teams are a long way from home, but they will be given a warm welcome by the people of Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.
“Not only do we get to host this brilliant fixture, we are also looking forward to welcoming the Cook Islands to their home away from home, as they will be using the region as their base throughout the tournament. They’ll be able to take advantage of our exceptional facilities that helped us win our hosting bid.”
David Joyes, Middlesbrough FC chief finance officer, said: “We’re delighted to be welcoming Tonga and the Cook Islands to the Riverside Stadium. It’s the final game of the group stage and there is a real Polynesian rivalry between the two countries so it should be a cracking occasion.
“Being able to bring the Rugby League World Cup 2021 to Teesside is something we are incredibly proud of and we’re sure the people of the region will really get behind such a prestigious sporting event.”
Jon Dutton, RLWC2021 Chief Executive, said: “This is a huge moment for the tournament and for fans in our host cities and towns as we reveal the full fixture schedule.
“The tournament has been gaining momentum over recent months and fans can now look forward to being part of this unique global event. With match dates and locations confirmed, the excitement will only intensify.
“RLWC2021 will bring together the very best that the sport has to offer, and you can see from the schedule that there is no end of world class, not-to-be-missed matches, across all three tournaments.
“It is an exciting day for all our Rugby League fans and communities across England who will be proud and brilliant hosts to the travelling nations as together we deliver the biggest and best Rugby League World Cup to date.”
The bid was put together by a partnership of the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority, Middlesbrough Football Club, Darlington Mowden Park RFC, MFC Foundation, Middlesbrough Council and Darlington Borough Council.
Please visit RLWC2021.com for more information, for details on how to sign up to receive ticket alerts and all the latest news.