Four countries will host 2013 Rugby League World Cup matches

The 2013 Rugby League World Cup will be held in four countries - England, Wales, Ireland and France.

Eighteen stadiums will host matches, with the venues for the semi-finals and final announced in early 2012.

Limerick (Ireland), Avignon and Perpignan (France), and Neath and Wrexham (Wales) are among the venues.

"We are excited the tournament will visit established rugby league venues and also some new locations," said tournament director Nigel Wood.

"It is quite well known that the sport is particularly strong in France, but not so much the progress it has made in Ireland over the last five years.

"Limerick recently hosted an international against France and it went well - the enthusiasm for rugby league in that part of the world is overwhelming."

New grounds at St Helens, Salford and Whitehaven will be used in England, but the Halton Stadium in Widnes will miss out because its synthetic pitch has not been sanctioned by the Rugby League International Federation.

The quarter-finals will be held at Headingley, Wrexham, Warrington and Wigan, and the tournament director said the bidding process had been competitive.

"We experienced massive interest in hosting matches from all across Europe and we have had to make some tough decisions," said Wood.

"The new locations give us unique opportunities to grow the game and deliver a lasting legacy for our sport.

"It has been a fantastic and inspiring bidding process and we have been extremely impressed with the quality, detail and diverse nature of the host bids received."

Bolton, Bradford, Manchester, Preston, Widnes and Workington will act as hosts, providing training camps.

The tournament will consist of two pools of four and two of three.

England have been drawn alongside Australia, Fiji and Ireland in Group A while holders New Zealand will face Papua New Guinea, Samoa and France in Group B.

Scotland will face Tonga and Italy in Group C and Wales have been drawn against the Cook Islands and the USA in Group D.

"There are 14 great nations competing in this World Cup and two of those - Italy and the USA - have only qualified in the last month or so," said Wood.

"The fact those two teams beat countries like Lebanon, Serbia, South Africa and Jamaica to qualify demonstrates the benchmark at entry level is pretty high.

"It is the essence of sport that you will get a few surprise results in the competition - that would be terrific."

The final will be held on 30 November 2013, with Old Trafford tipped as the likely venue.