THE TOP three Rugby League nations in the world will grace the Ricoh Arena pitch later this year as part of a mouth-watering Four Nations international tournament coming to the city.
Coventry has been selected to host the second stage of the three-round tournament which will see world number one New Zealand take on world number two Australia in a repeat of the 2014 final, while the third ranked team in the world England come up against old rivals Scotland.
The results of both matches, which will be played at the 32,000 seater venue on November 5, are set to have a significant bearing on which two teams reach the final.
It will be only the second time the Ricoh will stage rugby league, with the city’s very own Coventry Bears set to host the Keighley Cougars, and it will be the highest level of the sport to ever be played in the city.
David Armstrong, group chief executive officer of Wasps who own the Ricoh, said securing the Four Nations internationals was part of its strategy since acquiring the stadium to put the club and the venue on the global stage as the host of a wide range of sports.
He said: “We have a world-class stadium with fantastic facilities and hosting two high-profile games of this nature will have the added bonus of encouraging more people to have a go at the sport.
“Fans from across the world will be heading to the Ricoh to the double-header which means there will be another positive economic spin-off for the region as well as the opportunity to raise the profile of the Midlands.
“Hosting the Four Nations sits proudly alongside the major music events we have on the horizon with MTV Crashes Coventry, Rihanna and Bruce Springsteen and the E Band also taking centre stage in the stadium bowl which will further put Wasps, the Ricoh Arena and the city of Coventry on the map internationally and nationally.”
The matches will take place across a double-header on November 5 with England taking on Scotland at 5.30pm before Australia face New Zealand at 8pm.
England, who are under the guidance of their new Australian head coach Wayne Bennett, will be looking to triumph as champions at the fifth attempt and break the dominance of the Kangeroos and Kiwis.
The matches will create a great deal of interest among the rugby community in the Midlands particularly with Wasps’ Director of Rugby Dai Young, who played for rugby league clubs Leeds and Salford and was captain of Wales in the 1995 Rugby League World Cup before switching codes.
The announcement is also a boost for the local economy, with both matches set to bring in thousands of fans from all over the world, as well as the city’s City of Rugby bid, which aims to make Coventry one of the leading cities in the world for every level of the sport by 2023.
“It’s another major event to add to the Ricoh’s growing list of world-class sporting events,” said Councillor Abdul Khan, deputy leader of Coventry City Council.
“Events of this quality really have a positive impact on grassroots clubs and interest always peaks when big sporting events like this are on.
“Encouraging more people to take part in and enjoy sport is a top priority for us and announcements like this one really help.
“Coventry has a proud sporting tradition and I’m glad that the city’s ten-year partnership sports strategy is proving such a success.”
The Ricoh is one of six venues to host matches this year along with Hull, Huddersfield, Workington and London, with the final to take place at Liverpool.
Tickets go on sale on April 22 and start from £20. For more information visit www.ricoharena.com.
Full 2016 Four Nations schedule:
Friday October 28 (8.00pm): Australia v Scotland, KC Lightstream Stadium, Hull
Saturday October 29 (2.30pm): England v New Zealand, The John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield
Saturday November 5 (5.30pm): England v Scotland, Ricoh Arena, Coventry
Saturday November 5 (8.00pm): New Zealand v Australia, Ricoh Arena, Coventry
Friday November 11 (8.00pm): New Zealand v Scotland, The Zebra Claims Stadium, Workington
Sunday November 13 (3.30pm): England v Australia, The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London
Sunday November 20 (2.30pm): Final, Anfield, Liverpool.