Rugby League World Cup: Scotland handed place in 2017 tournament
Last Updated: 03/08/14 4:44pm
Scotland have been rewarded for their performance at the last Rugby League World Cup by being granted automatic qualification for the 2017 tournament.
The Rugby League International Federation has ruled that seven of the eight quarter-finalists at the 2013 World Cup will not need to qualify for the next tournament in Australia and New Zealand.
The excitement, on the back of the playing success of the 2013 tournament when the group stages, especially, gave us some wonderful contests and new names and stars to support, is already evident.
The only team which made the last eight in England which will have to seal their place is the United States, who are not yet full members of the RLIF.
The Tomahawks can build on their impressive 2013 showing - when they beat Wales and the Cook Islands - by coming through the Americas qualifying tournament, but must also resolve the difficulties arising from having two separate domestic competitions.
Joining Scotland - who are 11th in the latest world rankings - as automatic qualifiers are holders Australia, New Zealand, England, Fiji, France and Samoa, who have also qualified for the 2014 Four Nations Series.
But Ireland, who were put up against England, Australia and Fiji in 2013, must qualify along with Wales and Papua New Guinea.
The 2017 tournament will feature 14 teams, with the remaining seven places in the draw to be filled by the teams who come through qualifying tournaments across four regions: three from Europe, two from Asia Pacific, one from the Americas and another from Middle East/Africa.
Those regions will reveal their qualification programmes by October and the final make-up of the 2017 World Cup will be known by December 1, 2016.
"The 2017 World Cup looks set to be the most geographically diverse in our history," said RLIF chairman Nigel Wood.
"The excitement, on the back of the playing success of the 2013 tournament when the group stages, especially, gave us some wonderful contests and new names and stars to support, is already evident.
"There is a clamour by existing and aspiring nations to be included and the process is now clear, equitable and gives the RLIF and those competing ample time to build the qualification games into memorable and meaningful events."