Will Wigan Warriors stars light up the World Cup 9s in Sydney?

Morgan Escare
Morgan Escare

Morgan Escare could face some of his Wigan team-mates at the World Cup 9s after England were drawn in the same group as France.

England - coached by Wayne Bennett - have also been drawn in the same group as Wales and Lebanon for the inaugural Downer World Cup 9s in Sydney on October 18-19.

Wigan could have players involved but only if they don't reach the Grand Final.

The England side will be the strongest available, presumably picked from the Great Britain's Lions squad which starts the week later, but with the understanding players from the two Grand Final squads will be rested.

The draw was made at the tournament launch at Parramatta Town Hall, where a raft of new rules were revealed including the introduction of a five-point try.

Group A comprises Australia, New Zealand, PNG and USA. Pacific nations Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Cook Islands were placed in Group C.

The two highest-placed teams from A will go through to the semi-finals, alongside the winners of Groups B and C.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said the pools were chosen to ensure exciting match-ups between traditional rivals.

"The World Cup 9s will feature the most exciting players to watch in the game, representing their nations and their cultures," Greenberg said.

"It will be a festival of rugby league and the fast-paced, frenetic nature of Nines will be fantastic to watch.

"This is rugby league rebooted - a unique and exciting way to showcase our wonderful athletes."

The amended rules include:

- a bonus zone, giving teams the chance for a five-point try;

- a 20-40 rule, in addition to the 40-20;

- a 25-second shot clock on drop-kicked conversions;

- golden try in the event of a match drawn after regulation time.

The two highest placed teams from the women's pool, which features Australia, New Zealand, England and PNG, will play in the final.