The line up of 24 teams to play in snooker’s 2015 World Cup in China next month has been announced.
The home favourites Ding Junhui and Xiao Guodong are top seeds, as China won the last World Cup in 2011 when they beat Northern Ireland in the final in Thailand.
Mark Selby and Stuart Bingham, the last two World Champions, make up a strong English team. John Higgins and Stephen Maguire will represent Scotland, while Mark Williams hopes to recover from a shoulder injury in time to play for Wales alongside Michael White. Australian pair Neil Robertson and Vinnie Calabrese will also be among the favourites.
The Irish team is made up of veterans Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien while world number 37 Kurt Maflin will team up with his wife Anita Maflin for Norway.
Kurt, who took Selby to a deciding frame at the World Championship on his Crucible debut last month, said: “It will be a new experience for both of us as we’ve never played together or against each other in a competitive event before.
“Anita has won the Nordic Cup before and she has won leagues in Norway against men and women, so she’s there on merit. She hasn’t played that much in recent years but she has been practising for the last couple of weeks since she found out we’d be playing together at the World Cup. It’s going to be a lot of fun, we will enjoy it, and hopefully we can win a few matches.
“It might be nerve-racking for Anita as she is not used to playing against the top players like Ding Junhui, or on TV. It’s something quite unique and we’ll give it our best shot.
“We haven’t thought about the tactical side yet but if there’s a difficult decision to be made I’ll be in charge – it’s about the only time I’ll get that chance in our marriage!”
The couple, who live in Oslo, have a seven-year-son called Neon, but he won’t be making the trip to China. “He’ll stay here and Anita’s mum will look after him,” Kurt added. “He would have to take ten days off school to come with, which is too much.”
The 24 teams will be divided into four groups of six teams, with each team to play five matches in the group stages. The top two teams in each group qualify for the knock-out stages. The format will be a combination of singles and doubles play.
The full group draw is below.
WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson said: “This event will be a wonderful demonstration of how far we have come as a global sport in recent years. It will be fantastic to see nations such as Brazil, Iran, Qatar, Austria and many others show what talented players they have. Wuxi will be a tremendous host of this tournament and we look forward to it with great anticipation.”
China A (Ding Junhui and Xiao Guodong)
Norway (Kurt Maflin and Anita Maflin)
Singapore (Marvin Lim Chun Kiatt and KK Chan)
India (Aditya Mehta and Pankaj Advani)
Malta (Tony Drago and Alex Borg)
Austria (Andrews Ploner and Paul Schopf)
Hong Kong (Marco Fu and Au Chi Wai)
Scotland (John Higgins and Stephen Maguire)
Iran (Hossein Vafaei Ayouri and Ehsan Heydari Nezhad)
Malaysia (Thor Chuan Leong and Mohd Reza Hassan)
Brazil (Igor Figueiredo and Itaro Santos)
Belgium (Luca Brecel and Thomas Skalski)
Australia (Neil Robertson and Vinnie Calabrese)
Wales (Mark Williams and Michael White)
Pakistan (Hamza Akbar and Muhammad Sajjad)
Qatar (Ahmed Saif and Ali Alobaidaly)
Poland (Mateusz Baranowski and Adam Stefanow)
Northern Ireland (Gerard Greene and Joe Swail)
England (Mark Selby and Stuart Bingham)
Republic of Ireland (Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien)
China B (Zhou Yuelong and Yan Bingtao)
Thailand (Dechawat Poomjaeng and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh)
UAE (Khalid Alkamali and Mohamed Shehab)
Germany (Lukas Kleckers and Felix Frede)