The man in charge of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup is promising the most competitive tournament in its 63-year history.

Although it is standard to hear such hyperbole from organisers, RLWC CEO Andrew Hill's words carry some weight.

The recent alterations to the international eligibility rules have changed the parameters for international league.

Scotland's performances in the 2016 Four Nations - where they drew with New Zealand and dominated England for almost a half - showed the merit of the law changes, which allow player to represent their country of heritage if not selected for a tier one nation (Australia, New Zealand and England).


The net result is that the minor nations can pick stronger teams, rather than see some of their best players ruled out as they chase selection with the "big three".

"The gap now is starting to narrow," Hill told the Herald on Sunday during a visit to Auckland. "On any given day, because of the eligibility rule changes and the desire that the players now have for the international game, you will see some unpredictable results. It will be the most competitive World Cup in history and the content is going to be first class."

Hill cites Lebanon as an example. The Middle Eastern team, now coached by Ivan Cleary, could call upon the likes of Robbie Farah, Tim Mannah, Mitchell Moses and Josh Mansour (if not selected by the Kangaroos).

Although it is currently overshadowed by the impending NRL and Super Rugby seasons, as well as the British Lions tour, this World Cup should make a major footprint.

The Kiwis haven't played on home soil since 2014, and you have to go back to 1992 for the last World Cup match in this country.

There will be seven matches in New Zealand, including a semi final, the Kiwis' opening match against Samoa and the blockbuster Pacific clash between Toa Samoa and Mate Ma'a Tonga.

"Ticket sales are tracking above expectations," said Hill. "The World Cup will not be in New Zealand for another 12 years after this. This is not just another NRL game, this is not just another rugby league match, this is a global sporting event."

One of the most fascinating aspects will be the three matches in Papua New Guinea, the only country in the world where the 13-man code is the national sport.

"It will stop the whole country," said Hill. "It will be the biggest event - not just sporting event - in Papua New Guinea this year by a long way."

There is a new purpose built rectangular stadium in Port Moresby, where the only issue may be the current 15,000 capacity.

"We are working with the stadium to increase the capacity," said Hill.

The Women's World Cup - which will see another chapter in the rivalry between the Kiwi Ferns and Jillaroos - runs parallel to the men's event.