By Duncan Mackay

The Rugby League World Cup was first held in France in 1954October 21 - South Africa will take on a joint bid from Australia and New Zealand to host the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, it was announced today.

Both proposals were approved and formal bids are now expected from both after the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) announced details today of the next stage of the process to host what will be the 15th edition of the tournament.

Following submissions, bids will be assessed by a specially convened RLIF Board Sub-Committee who will make a recommendation on host nation.

The Sub-Committee will be chaired by Nigel Wood, deputy chairman of the RLIF and tournament director of this year's World Cup, which is due to start at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday (October 26).

Bids for 2017 are due to be submitted in November when the country will also be asked to present the content of their bids to the Sub-Committee.

A decision is expected to be announced in January 2014.

"This is an important milestone for the further development and growth of the international game as we firmly establish a four year cycle for the World Cup," said Wood.

"The Rugby League World Cup is the pinnacle of the sport and is essential to the development of the game at every level.

"It is fantastic to see three nations all with an active interest in hosting the next tournament as that clearly demonstrates a growing, global interest in rugby league.

"The RLIF has established a thorough assessment process for the bids, to ensure that the tournament is awarded to the best host.

"An early decision will enable maximum time for planning and preparation and put the hosts of the Rugby League World Cup 2017 in the best possible position to deliver a successful tournament."

Australia hosted the last Rugby World Cup, in 2008, but were beaten by rivals New Zealand in the final in BrisbaneAustralia hosted the last Rugby World Cup, in 2008, but were beaten by rivals New Zealand in the final in Brisbane

The World Cup been held nearly once every four years on average since its inaugural tournament in France in1954.

This was the first World Cup of either rugby code and the first competition to be officially known as the "Rugby World Cup".

South Africa have never hosted the tournament but Australia have staged it on four occasions, including jointly with New Zealand in 1968 and 1977.

Australia held the event on its own the last occasion it was held, in 2008, when New Zealand lifted the trophy for the first time, beating the hosts 34-20 in the final in Brisbane.

The bid from South Africa is particularly significant because until now rugby union has been the dominant code in the country.

This year's World Cup will feature 14 teams with the preliminary rounds being played in England, France, Ireland and Wales with the quarter-finals being held in Leeds, Warrington, Wrexham and Wigan, the semi-finals at Wembley Stadium in London and the final at Old Trafford in Manchester.

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