Downer World Cup Nines: Guide to international rugby league’s newest tournament

Downer World Cup Nines: Guide to international rugby league’s newest tournament

International rugby league breaks new ground this weekend as the inaugural Downer World Cup Nines takes place in Sydney.

The nine-a-side variant of the sport will see 12 men’s and four women’s teams battling it out on Friday and Saturday at Bankwest Stadium in a bid to be crowned champions.

England are represented in both competitions, with Wales’ men in action as well and both teams have named strong squads to tackle the best the rest of the world has to offer.

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Here, we give you a rundown of all of the the involved, the playing rules, tournament format and the fixtures for what promises to be an enthralling event…

Which teams are involved?

The men’s tournament features 12 teams split into three pools of four, while the women’s tournament has four nations involved.

Australia and New Zealand are joined in Pool A by Papua New Guinea and the USA, England and Wales are with Lebanon and France in Pool B, and Pool C is an all-Pacific Islands affair with Tonga, Cook Islands, Fiji and Samoa taking on each other.

The women’s tournament features teams from England, Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

There will be equal pay across both competitions too, with each player in the men’s and women’s tournaments receiving $2,000 from the organisers.

What are the rules?

All matches will be played under rugby league’s normal Laws of the Game, with several variations for the tournament…

  • Matches are played nine-a-side with two nine-minute halves
  • There are unlimited interchanges
  • It is five tackles per set rather than the usual six
  • Sin-bin periods last for three minutes rather than 10
  • All conversion attempts are drop kicks, with a 25-second shot clock
  • 20/40 kicks have been introduced alongside 40/20 kicks
  • A five-point try will be awarded if a player scores in a bonus zone between the posts
  • Drawn matches are decided by golden try

What is the format?

The competition takes place over two days at Sydney’s Bankwest Stadium, with each team playing the others in their pool once.

At the end of the pool stages, the top two in Pool A and the top teams in the other groups go through to the semi-finals of the men’s competition while the top two in the women’s competition go straight to the final.

World Nines history

This is the first World Cup Nines tournament, although several nines variants have taken place for club and international sides before.

The Australian Super League held two international competitions in 1996 and 1997, with the first seeing 16 teams taking part and the second having 12 involved.

The first, held in Fiji, saw New Zealand claim their first international rugby league trophy after beating Papua New Guinea 24-10 in the final. There was home nations success too as Wales won the secondary bowl competition.

The Kiwis defended their title the following year with a 16-0 victory over Western Samoa in the final, with the tournament being moved to Australia.

The tournament ceased following the formation of the NRL. However, the NRL did hold an Auckland Nines competition for its clubs between 2014 and 2017, with a women’s competition featuring Australia and New Zealand’s national teams held alongside it for three editions as well.

In the UK, the short-lived Carnegie Floodlit Nines at Headingley saw a mixed of club, representative and international teams going head-to-head in the shorter format earlier this decade.

The Northern Rail Nines, held in 2009 and 2010 at Fylde RFC, featured teams from the Championship and League One as well.

The aim is for the World Cup Nines to become a regular presence on the international calendar and England head coach Wayne Bennett is one of those who is eager for that to become the case, seeing it as a great development tool.

“We’ve got a history of getting out of things too quick,” Bennett said. “Hopefully, we’ll stay with it and add something to the rugby league calendar.

“It’s great to see all the teams and the women are here. It’s not easy to do, obviously there’s a bit of expense involved, but we’ve just got to be consistent with it and have the confidence that it can work for us and grow the game.”


All 28 matches will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Arena and Main Event. Fixtures are shown below with approximate UK times.


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