The countdown to the 2013 World Cup began in earnest when the trophy began a tour that organisers hope will be witnessed by four million people.
Former Great Britain winger Martin Offiah helped launch the tour at Huddersfield's historic George Hotel, where local schoolchildren re-enacted the famous meeting of 1895 where northern clubs took the decision to break away from the Rugby Football Union to form rugby league. The 61cm silver-plated trophy, which originally cost eight million French francs and is currently valued at £500,000, will be on view nationwide for the next 13 months, with Downing Street and the Welsh national assembly among its stopping-off points.
"This has given the trophy a terrific send-off," said tournament director Nigel Wood. "It's been an absolutely terrific event and an uplifting experience for all concerned. "I'm sure wherever it goes, it will be a big draw. With the itinerary that has been drawn up, it will seen and touched by four million people. "It will go to all four countries playing host to group matches, including France and Ireland, each one of the 25 towns and cities who are acting as either hosts or venues will have the benefit of a minimum of three visits."
The 14-team tournament, which is being jointly hosted by England and Wales, will get under way in Cardiff on October 26 next year and culminate in the final at Old Trafford on November 30. Organisers have yet to announce a sponsor but Wood believes the tournament, which was last held in this country in 2000, is geared up to be a major success.
"We've put a lot of effort into this," he said. "I don't remember previous international rugby league tournaments having the same degree of pre-planning. "Ticket go on sale on October 26th and we're in as good a shape as we could be in terms of staging a world-class event. "It's a terrific opportunity for rugby league to put on its glad rags and to represent itself as one of the best sports in the country."
Offiah, who played in the 1992 and 1995 World Cups during his career withWidnes and Wigan and will perform an ambassadorial role in 2013, believes rugby league is well placed to capitalise on the feel-good factor generated by the Olympics and Paralympics.
"We all know what has happened this summer and I think the Rugby League are definitely trying feed off that enthusiasm and fervour," he said. "There are some big venues and, as long as we fill all these stadiums and (England coach) Steve McNamara and the boys put on a good performance, it will be a good time for rugby league."
England begin their preparations for 2013 tomorrow when they set off for South Africa for the first of two high-altitude training camps and will meet France and Wales in their autumn internationals when they return.
The USA National Team is on course for a successful campaign with great preparation taking place in 2012 along with a robust schedule in 2013 leading to the first World Cup game against the Cook Islands in Bristol. League chief, David Niu has been busy coordinating plans with Matty Elliott, Steve Johnson and the coaching staff to leave no stone unturned to ensure the selected squad arrive in the UK ready to fire on the world stage. Exciting plans are developing to broadcast the tournament in America, and air the USA team's games live to a vast national audience. Niu shared, "It is certainly a fantastic opportunity to expose our team and the tournament to American sports fans. USA Rugby have shown, that via their partnership with NBC there is an apetite for rugby programming in the US that features American athletes taking on the best in the world. The best way to reach that audience is to provide them access to what we all know is a fantastic sport, and deliver it to them directly into their living rooms. I have approached the RLWC 2013 Management Group and look forward to sharing good news regarding this once the international broadcast deals have been finalized."