Saturday 24 March 2012 | Published in Regional
The Cook Islands will make a city in the south-west of England its unofficial 16th island during the Rugby League World Cup next year when it uses the city as its home base for the competition.
Bristol, the eighth largest city in the United Kingdom, has been selected as the Cook Islands’ host city for the 2013 tournament.
It will also host the Cook Islands’ opening World Cup match against the United States of America late in October.
South West Regional Director for the Rugby Football League Joe Catcheside this week told Bristol-based radio station Jack FM that the Kuki-USA match would be the first international rugby league fixture played at Bristol in 100 years.
“It’s a great honour for the city to be hosting a part of the tournament anyway, its only the eighth world cup of any sport which has been held in the UK and for Bristol to be part of the Rugby League World Cup is brilliant,” Catcheside said.
“To have the Cook Islands to come here I think is a real privilege for us. It’s a rugby passionate nation, it’s only a population of 20,000 on the islands and about 100,000 are scattered around the world.”
Bristol is the largest city in a region which is much more strongly associated with rugby union than league.
Catcheside said the fact that Bristol would host a World Cup team and match would undoubtedly help league’s cause in the region.
“The (Bristol) Sonics team is about to start its first season of national competition, we have junior competitions, we have an under 19s academy and the sport is now played at Bristol, UWE and Bath (universities),” he said.
“So it’s partly a reflection of how far we’ve come along the development pathway. It’s also because I think the rugby league has recognised the potential the south west has to become a real hotbed of rugby league in the future.”