Organisers have put the final touches to the European qualifying process for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, with Leigh Sports Village unveiled as the venue for a play-off to determine the final spot.
Seven of the eight quarter-finalists from 2013, including England and Scotland, are automatically through to the tournament to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, with the other seven to come from a complex series of qualifying tournaments, starting next month.
The battle for the three European vacancies kicks off in Riga on May 9 when Latvia play Spain in a one-off match for the right to join Greece and Malta in European Championship C.
The winner will go forward to the final qualifying pools in 2016 along with the top three teams from European Championship B – featuring Serbia, Russia, Italy and Ukraine – and seeds Ireland and Wales.
Those six teams will take part in a round-robin, two-group qualifying tournament in the autumn of 2016, with the two table-toppers going through to the World Cup, together with the winners of a play-off between the second-placed nations, to be held at Leigh on November 5.
A live draw will take place on November 5, 2015 – exactly a year before the final berth for the 2017 World Cup is decided – to determine the make-up of the two pools and the schedule of fixtures, with Wales and Ireland kept apart in the draw.
Wales coach John Kear said: “It is with great excitement that I look forward to the upcoming three years of international rugby league. We are all excited and invigorated by the challenges that World Cup qualification involves.”