Double-header to end 104-year Midlands absence
International rugby league will be staged in the footballing heartland of the Midlands this weekend for the first time in more than a century, and it is being viewed as a crucial milestone for the growth of the game in England.
The 2016 Four Nations double-header at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry will see host nation England take on Scotland, before New Zealand and Australia play out a top-of-the-table clash on Sunday morning (AEDT).
The matches will be the first internationals to be held in the region since New Year's Day in 1912, when Great Britain were defeated 33-8 by Australia at Villa Park in Birmingham.
England standoff Gareth Widdop told NRL.com it was an exciting chance to take the game to an area where rugby league has traditionally struggled to establish a foothold.
"It certainly is a good opportunity for the game, the RFL (the Rugby Football League) are trying to grow it in England and to take it down there is going to be great," Widdop said.
"The league boys probably don't get to go down to that neck of the woods too often, so to promote the game and have a double-header down there will be fantastic, and no doubt we will get a lot of fans turn out.
"Taking it away from areas like Yorkshire and Lancashire where rugby league is traditionally played is certainly going to benefit the game.
"I haven't played there before so I am excited for it from that point of view as well."
The Midlands is home to current Premier League football champions Leicester City and fellow top-flight side West Bromwich Albion, as well as a host of lower-league professional sides.
Meanwhile Widdop, who has earned 19 Test caps for England since his international debut in 2010, admitted to feeling plenty of frustration following a 17-16 defeat to the Kiwis in the opening round of the tournament last weekend.
England haven't won a major world tournament since 1972, and following that loss are now facing an uphill battle to qualify for the Four Nations final on November 20 at Anfield.
"It is frustrating and it wasn't an ideal start," the St George Illawarra Dragons captain told NRL.com.
"We wanted to get the win but it's gone now and we have to learn from what we didn't do so well and take it on to the Scotland game.
"We have a group of men who are confident and willing to work for each other, so that is all we can do."