Rugby League: Honey Hireme satisfied with Kiwi Ferns' draw for World Cup

Kiwi Ferns captain Honey Hireme is satisfied New Zealand have the draw they wanted for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England. 

Hireme was at Buckingham Palace for the men's, women's and wheelchair draws, conducted by Prince Harry, along with former dual-code international Jason Robinson and UK Sport chair Dame Katherine Grainger.

Prince Harry - the Duke of Sussex - drew the NZ women to compete against two-time defending champions Australia in Group A, along with France and Cook Islands.

While the Ferns now face a tougher pool game, they won't have to play the Jillaroos again until the final, should both nations make it that far.

While Australia have captured the last two titles, New Zealand took the three before that, so the rivals are clear favourites to meet again in the final. 

"I was happy with the draw," Hireme told Trackside Radio. "I find our team does better as we go along and if we hit those big games in the finals, it goes better for us. 

"When Papua New Guinea was drawn out, I knew we were facing Australia and I made it known during the draw that's what I wanted.

"England were quite chuffed that they didn't get us in the pool, but I was thinking, 'well, you're going to cross us or Aussie in the semis, so I'm not sure why you're chuffed'."  

Before the draw, Hireme also got the chance to meet Harry, which she described as a "crazy" experience. 

While the event was focused on the draw, Hireme said all players in attendance were told not to mention the news about Prince Harry stepping down from royal duties. 

The draw was the first public appearance for the Rugby Football League patron since his announcement last week. 

"It was crazy, with the media today trying to get a glimpse of him, but he comes across so well. He's invested in all sports, but he was clued up on what's going on. 

"We all got to meet him and I got put at the front of the line. They introduced us, and he leant in and gave me a hongi, which i wasn't expecting, 

"I was glad I went into for hongi and didn't stick my lips out." 

Tongan representative Konrad Hurrell tweeted a photo with the Prince. 

Hurrell caught the attention of many users as he was wearing jandals inside the palace. 

"Still can’t get over today," he said. "Kid from Tonga get to walk into Buckingham Palace and get to meet the Duke of Sussex.

"Honoured to represent my Tongan brothers and country for the @RLWC2021 draw."

Meanwhile, Hireme who was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit during the New Year's Honours, hopes to compete in her fifth World Cup next year. 

"If I'm there, I'll be 40, but it would be my fifth World Cup and I've never been so excited for a World Cup. 

"Just the lead-in and the investment the government has put into the World Cup, it will be one of the biggest events in rugby league that I've been in."