International rugby league to return to Leeds, Hull and Liverpool in 2018

Ryan Hall in action during the Rugby League World Cup. PIC: PA
Ryan Hall in action during the Rugby League World Cup. PIC: PA
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England’s Test series against New Zealand in 2018 will be played along the M62 corridor.

Hull, Liverpool and Leeds have been chosen to stage the matches against the Kiwis with the Rugby Football League opting against a return to London.

The second Test against New Zealand in 2015 drew a promising crowd of 44,393 to the old Olympic Stadium but just 35,569 returned for the visit of Australia in last year’s Four Nations Series and organisers have now decided to stick with the north of England, the game’s traditional heartland.

The opening match will take place at Hull’s KCOM Stadium on Saturday, October 27 and, following the success of the 2016 Four Nations final - which attracted a crowd of 40,042 for the clash between Australia and New Zealand - international rugby league will return to Anfield for the second Test a week later.

The series will conclude on Sunday, November 11 at Elland Road, which will host its first Test match since the 2011 Four Nations decider between England and Australia.

Rugby Football League chief executive Nigel Wood, who is in Australia for the World Cup, said: “With the eyes of the nation firmly fixed on England’s progress in the World Cup we are delighted to announce that international rugby league is returning to home soil in 2018.

“Fans will be able to see some the biggest names in the game compete at three fantastic stadiums. The KCOM stadium, Anfield and Elland Road are all venues that I am sure will inspire the players and I am certain that England fans will help create incredible atmospheres at each of these grounds next year.”

The Kiwis were the number one ranked country in the world when they visited England for the 2015 Test series but they have since endured a slump and are currently reeling from their failure to reach the 2017 World Cup semi-finals.

England head coach Wayne Bennett, whose contract with the RFL runs out at the end of the World Cup, has not ruled out helping the Kiwis but has welcomed the choice of venues for 2018.

“Hull, Leeds and Liverpool will all do a great job in hosting the games and supporters,” Bennett said.

“I know Anfield is new to the mix for England but seeing so many people attend the Four Nations final last year is promising for the game and I hope the fans will turn out in great number once again.”