All you need to know about the inaugural Downer World Cup Nines

The 12 leading men’s and women’s teams have converged on Sydney for the inaugural Downer World Cup Nines.

Here, the PA news agency answers your questions about rugby league’s newest tournament.

What’s the thinking behind the tournament and why Nines rather than Sevens?

The teams line up for the 2019 World Cup Nines
The teams line up for the 2019 World Cup Nines (NRL handout)

The event is the brainchild of the old Rugby League International Federation which wanted to kick off the 2019 international programme with a blockbusting event.

Nines is considered the perfect compromise between 13-a-side and Sevens as it retains most of the characteristics of traditional rugby league but on a faster, more eye-catching scale.

Organisers are the Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) which ran a pre-season Nines tournament in Auckland from 2014-17 but the timing meant that not all the clubs took it seriously.

So what are the main differences between Nines and 13-a-side?

The Sydney Harbour Bridge provides the backdrop for England men’s and women’s teams at the World Cup Nines (England Rugby League handout)

Teams are made up of five forwards and four backs, with unlimited interchange, and matches are played in two nine-minute halves with five tackles per set rather than the usual six.

Sin-bin periods last for three minutes instead of 10, conversion attempts are drop kicks with a 25-second shot clock and a try will be worth an extra point if it is scored between the posts.

In the event of a draw after 18 minutes, the outcome will be decided not by golden point but by golden try.

Have countries sent their strongest teams and who are the players to look out for?

St Helens v Wigan Warriors – Super League – Totally Wicked Stadium
St Helens’ Kevin Naiqama flew straight out to Sydney after the Grand Final to link up with Fiji (PA Images/Dave Howarth)

England made a decision because of the logistics not to select any of the players involved in the later stages of the Super League play-offs, with the exception of Wigan stand-off George Williams who put his hand up to play.

The tournament will feature two Grand Finalists in St Helens winger Regan Grace, who is playing for Wales, and his club-mate Kevin Naiqama, who will lead Fiji.

England, captained by James Graham, can still boast 11 members of the 16-man Great Britain squad that will stay on in the southern hemisphere for the Lions tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea and the other nations are particularly strong.

Shaun Johnson will captain New Zealand while Tonga are fielding all their heavyweights and Australia will be particularly dangerous with the likes of  Kalyn Ponga and Josh Addo-Carr.

When does the action start and where can I watch it?

It all kicks on Friday morning UK time at 8.20, with England’s women playing Papua New Guinea at 8.45 and the men taking on France at 9.10. The finals are scheduled for 9.45 and 11 on Saturday morning and all the action will be shown live on Sky Sports.

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