While most people are turning their thoughts to the last of the works Christmas parties, out buying those last minute gifts for their friends and family, or putting on the sprouts ahead of the big day, spare a thought for our gallant sportsmen who are getting themselves ready to provide your post-festivities entertainment.

There are a number of ways for you to get your fix of live rugby league action over the festive period as the players seek to blow away the cobwebs ahead of what is certain to be a demanding 2017 season across all divisions.

Liverpool's Anfield was the venue for the 2016 Four Nations Final between Australia and New Zealand.

Australia called on the same starting thirteen which defeated England last week but New Zealand were without Thomas Leuluai who picked up a double-fracture of his jaw in the draw against Scotland last weekend.

The Aussies were massive bookies favourites to retain their crown, win their fourth Four Nations crown, and complete a hat-trick of wins over the last six weeks.

England simply needed to avoid defeat to make it through to next Sunday's Four Nations Final where they would again meet today's opponents, Australia. Any thoughts that Australia would field a weakened side were crushed when they announced their strongest line-up, the Aussies determined to make it a clean sweep of victories in the group stage.

Wayne Bennett rang the changes for England with Kevin Brown, James Graham, and John Bateman all in the starting line up with George Williams moved to the bench after his starring role last week.

New Zealand were playing for a place in the Four Nations Final as they took on a Scotland side playing for pride and a chance to leave the competition on a high.

The venue was a cold and damp Derwent Park in Workington where Scotland made just two bench changes to the side who fought so bravely against England last week, before succumbing in the second half. The Kiwis made rather more changes from the side who lost against Australia last Saturday.

According to the bookies it was all about the New Zealand winning margin, but Scotland hadn't read the script.

The two hundred percenters clashed in the second match of the Four Nations double-header at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. Whoever emerged victorious from the next eighty minutes would all but guarantee their appearance in the final at Anfield in a fortnight's time.

The teams last met in the middle of last month, with Australia the victors by 26-6, but the World number one side, New Zealand, would be keen to overcome the old enemy.

Most of the crowd had stayed to watch the worlds best in action and were hoping for a close game.

After losing by a single point against New Zealand last weekend England went into this evening double-header at Coventry knowing that the final could be decided on points difference, and determined for a big win against Scotland.

Steve McCormack's bravehearts travelled to the Ricoh Arena looking to upset the sassenachs and get Scotlands first ever Four Nations points after last weekends big loss against Australia.

England were massive favourites for the win with odds as long as 33/1 on Scotland upsetting the Wall of White.

A masterclass and 24 point haul from Terry Campese saw Italy claim the fourteenth and final place in the 2017 World Cup with a 14-try, 76-0 rout over depleted Russia at the Leigh Sports Village.

The Azzurri now join Fiji and the USA in Group D in the full tournament and will also play a cross-group tie with Ireland.

Campese, who has been in tremendous form over the three qualifying ties is looking forward to the chance to play for his national side in Canberra where he started his junior career, enjoyed success with the Raiders in the NRL, and where he will join ACT side Queanbeyan as player/coach in the run up to the World Cup.

The expectation at a full John Smith's Stadium in Huddersfield was palpable for an English winning start to their four nations campaign against a New Zealand side keen to banish all memories of a loss against Australia a fortnight ago.

England were the slight favourites with most bookies, but there was very little to choose between the two sides as Sam Burgess returned to the international rugby scene as the England captain.

Coach Bennett make a handful of changes to the side who beat France in last weeks friendly, most notably through the inclusion of Dan Sarginson and Sam Burgess, meaning that three of the Burgess brothers would be in action this afternoon.

The Four Nations kicked off at the KC Lightstream Stadium in Hull where Australia started their campaign with a game against a Scotland. It was the first ever meeting between these two nations.

Five new caps for Australia as Mal Meninga decided to blood some of the younger members of his touring squad, making seven changes from the side who beat New Zealand a fortnight ago.

The bookies and the pundits didn't give the Bravehearts any kind of chance ahead of kick-off with Australia 1/100 on for the win and offering 50/1 on Scotland. It was just a case of how good a show Scotland would put on and how close they could keep to the Aussies.

The legacy of the late Jo Cox MP is being kept alive through rugby league with a delegation of VIPs heading to Pakistan to launch a girls’ training initiative in conjunction with schools across West Yorkshire.

Involving BARA (British Asian Rugby Association) founder and former England RL international Ikram Butt, Oasis Lister Academy Headteacher Ian Simpson, and Craig Taylor of Batley Bulldogs, the project will identify 15 girls from Kirklees, Bradford and Leeds. They will be mentored by a collaboration of partners including the Chief Superintendent of West Yorkshire Police Mabs Hussain, Major Marr (Head of Engagement, British Army, Yorkshire & Humber) and Chris Green (founder of the White Ribbon Campaign which campaigns against violence against women & girls) amongst others.
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