JON Dutton was aged five when his dad took him to the old Hilton Park for his first taste of rugby league and to witness the wizardry of young stars Des Drummond and John Woods.

Fast forward 44 years and in his role as Rugby League World Cup CEO Dutton has been the architect of the sport's biggest ever global tournament.

The Covid-delayed event, which sees Leigh Sports Village host three matches and the town host Lebanon, kicks off on Saturday at Newcastle when hosts England take on an NRL-packed Samoa side.

 It is a proud moment of achievement for Dutton, who spoke passionately about the tournament and its three cups - Men's, Women's and Wheelchair - at Monday's launch.

Dutton said: "This has been an incredible journey and one that was first conceived in November 2015.

"Back then nobody would have predicted the challenges that lay ahead – from Brexit to a global pandemic, a change in monarchy to a cost of living crisis, from war in Europe to postponement.

"Everyone collectively has had to navigate so many things, but we have done that with a resolute determination.

"My board and my team has worked tirelessly and there’s been no stone unturned to ensure that when the fireworks go off there are no regrets.

"My favourite quote is ‘without challenge there is no achievement'.

"While I’m sure there’s a little more challenge ahead, now is the time for achievement.

"We welcome the sport’s greatest contemporary athletes – the most diverse playing population ever assembled in the sport and we are about to stage the biggest tournament in the sport’s 127-year history.

"This is international rugby league’s moment to shine and together we have the greatest opportunity to create new history that will pave the way for these amazing athletes to show the world our talents.

"Have hope, have faith and enjoy every moment."