London (AFP) – Holders Australia will face Fiji, Italy and Scotland at next year’s Rugby League World Cup following Thursday’s group stage draw that took place under the keen eye of Prince Harry, who made his first public appearance since announcing he and his wife Meghan were to quit as full-time royals.

Harry, 35, is patron of the Rugby Football League, the sport’s governing body in England, and his participation in the draw at Buckingham Palace was planned long before last week’s shock announcement.

Eleven-time winners Australia should have little trouble progressing from Group B with only 2017 semi-finalists Fiji looking capable of giving them a run for their money.

Hosts England — beaten 6-0 in the 2017 final by Australia — will have Samoa, France and Greece in Group A.

Samoa may be bolstered by the presence of New Zealand rugby union great Sonny Bill Williams who has switched back to league.

The 34-year-old played 12 Tests for New Zealand in rugby league including a game against Samoa in 2013, but he is eligible to play for the Samoans through his father’s heritage.

The Kiwis for their part have Ireland, Lebanon — who were narrowly beaten by Tonga in the last eight in 2017 — and Jamaica in Group C.

Semi-finalists last time out, the Tongans are in Group D alongside fellow Pacific Islanders Papua New Guinea, Wales and the Cook Islands.

The tournament kicks off with England taking on Samoa in Newcastle on October 23 and runs till November 27.