Sheffield United star Oli McBurnie helps welcome Rugby League World Cup trophies to city
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To mark 200 days until the tournament kicks off, organisers are taking the men’s, women’s and wheelchair trophies on a whistle-stop of the 18 host cities across England on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the English Institute of Sport, Sheffield will host all of the Group B fixtures in the wheelchair tournament, as well as the semi-finals.
“Rugby league was the sport in my school,” said Leeds-born Blades striker Oli McBurnie, who was among those at the Peace Gardens to welcome the trophies.
“I was alright. I could kick, so that helped. I liked to throw it to the big boys.
"We used to just like getting stuck in, that’s how I play football.”
Sporting a basketball cap, the former scrum-half added: "I love sport, I love my combat sports. I boxed a little bit when I was a kid but I’m too pretty for that.”
Also in attendance on Tuesday was veteran and England wheelchair rugby league international James Simpson, who had both his legs blown off in an IED explosion during a 2009 tour of Afghanistan.
Dubbed ‘the world's most inclusive sport’, wheelchair rugby league is a mixed-sex sport played by teams of five with two able-bodied players on each side.
James said: “You are in big, armoured wheelchairs and want to try and bump into people. All the laws are exactly the same as rugby league.”
Discussing the importance of the tournament, Mark Aston, director of rugby at Sheffield Eagles, said: “It’s massive for the city, the game and Sheffield Eagles.
”Everybody knows the tough times we have had over the last nine years being outside of the city, 2022 is a massive year for us coming back home.
"We have just launched the women’s team, which is fantastic, and the wheelchair team is playing games. It’s one club.
"Hopefully on the back of the tournament we can generate a bit of interest and Sheffield Eagles can start going from strength to strength again.”
World Cup ticket prices start at £2.21, with more than 80 per cent of tickets priced below £50.
Tickets are available at www.rlwc2021.com/tickets.