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England Eyeing World Cup Title Defence

Formidable Stoke duo Adrian Lewis and Phil Taylor look to keep the World Cup trophy on English soil (credit: Lawrence Lustig/ PDC)
Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis begin their bid to retain the World Cup of Darts title for England in Hamburg on Friday, but 2010 champions Holland, 2012 finalists Australia and rivals Scotland head the list of challengers for the prestigious crown.

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Taylor and Lewis defeated Australian pair Simon Whitlock and Paul Nicholson in a dramatic sudden-death leg to win the title last year, with both teams missing chances for victory in a tense finale in Hamburg.

The two nations could potentially meet again in this year's decider should they progress through three days of action at the Alsterdorfer Sporthalle, which begins with the opening Group Stage games on Friday.

With the 24 teams drawn into eight groups for the first round of the event, the unseeded nations will clash on Friday afternoon before the winning teams meet the seeded nation on Friday night.

The seeded nations will then play Friday afternoon's losing teams on Saturday afternoon in the decisive group games, before the top two countries from each group progress to the knock-out phase of the £150,000 event.

Taylor and Lewis have been drawn in Group A with Austria and Japan, and start the event as the 6/4 tournament favourites with title sponsors Betfair - and Lewis, who hit last year's winning double, is confident of retaining the title.

"I'm really looking forward to the World Cup and I'm raring to go," said Lewis.

"It's a different type of event for us because it's pairs and we're used to playing for the majority of the year in singles events - but I've got the best partner anybody could have with Phil Taylor!

"It's great to be paired up with the new World Champion - and everyone will expect us to win our group against Austria and Japan, but I know it will get tougher as the tournament goes on.

"Australia made the final last year and Simon and Paul are quality players, Michael van Gerwen's probably been the best player in darts for the last year and he's playing with Raymond van Barneveld for Holland.

"When you look that Robert Thornton and Gary Anderson are back in form, you know Scotland will be tough too and teams like Germany, Northern Ireland and Wales have a lot of quality too, so it will be hard to win the title back."

World Championship finalist Van Gerwen will make his debut in the tournament alongside Raymond van Barneveld, who claimed glory with Co Stompe in the inaugural World Cup of Darts in 2010.

"I'm really looking forward to the World Cup," said van Gerwen. "I'm proud to have qualified and I think Raymond and myself are going to do well."

Nicholson, meanwhile, links up again with European Championship winner Whitlock, with the pair bidding to build on the success of reaching the 2010 semi-finals and last year's decider.

"It was obviously disappointing to lose in the final last year and hopefully we can go one step further this weekend," said Nicholson. "It was a great event last year and the atmosphere was incredible, and I hope it will be the same in Hamburg again."

Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Germany and the Republic of Ireland make up the remainder of the seeded nations, while Belgium - who are drawn in Group H with Northern Ireland and Hungary - will be represented by brothers Kim and Ronny Huybrechts.

The pair will team up only a month after the sudden loss of their father Ludo, and world number 20 Kim - the younger of the two - admits that they will be realising a dream by competing together in front of the Sky Sports cameras.

"Our dad loved darts and this was one of his dreams," said Huybrechts. "It's very nice to play with each other in this tournament, and I'm sure if he was still alive he'd be very proud of us.

"He played darts his whole life and taught us everything about the game, and after he died we spoke to each other hoping that we would be able to play in the World Cup together, and maybe win it.

"Ronny's a perfect partner for me. He's been one of the best players in Belgium for a long time and we've won many tournaments together before, so we play really well together.

"We fit perfectly together as Doubles partners; we know what to say to each other when it's not going well and how to motivate each other.

"Other people sometimes don't really know each other when they're selected and you don't always know how to act on stage with each other or say things.

"Ronny might just say one sentence to me, or even one word, and it can change how I'm thinking, and it's perfect to have a partner like that."

Three-time World Champion John Part will be partnered by debutant Jeff Smith as they take on Scotland's Gary Anderson and Robert Thornton and the Swedish pair of Magnus Caris and Par Riihonen in Group C.

Former World Matchplay champion Larry Butler will make his World Cup of Darts debut for the USA alongside left-hander Darin Young, while recent PDC Tour Card winners Charl Pietersen and Jani Haavisto will represent South Africa and Finland respectively.

Betfair World Cup of Darts Groups

Group A
England (1) - Phil Taylor & Adrian Lewis
Austria - Mensur Suljovic & Maik Langendorf
Japan - Haruki Muramatsu & Sho Katsumi

Group B
Republic of Ireland (8) - William O'Connor & Connie Finnan
Denmark - Per Laursen & Jann Hoffmann
South Africa - Charl Pietersen & Shawn Hogan

Group C
Scotland (4) - Gary Anderson & Robert Thornton
Canada - John Part & Jeff Smith
Sweden - Magnus Caris & Par Riihonen

Group D
Wales (5) - Mark Webster & Richie Burnett
Spain - Antonio Alcinas & Carlos Rodriguez
Italy - Daniele Petri & Matteo Dal Monte

Group E
Netherlands (2) - Michael van Gerwen & Raymond van Barneveld
Gibraltar - Dyson Parody & Dylan Duo
Poland - Krzysztof Kciuk & Krzysztof Ratajski

Group F
Germany (7) - Jyhan Artut & Andree Welge
Finland - Jani Haavisto & Jarkko Komula
USA - Darin Young & Larry Butler

Group G
Australia (3) - Simon Whitlock & Paul Nicholson
Croatia - Robert Marijanovic & Tonci Restovic
New Zealand - Phil Hazel & Craig Caldwell

Group H
Northern Ireland (6) - Brendan Dolan & Michael Mansell
Belgium - Kim Huybrchts & Ronny Huybrechts
Hungary - Nandor Bezzeg & Meszaros Zsolt
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England Eyeing World Cup Title Defence

Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis begin their bid to retain the World Cup of Darts title for England in Hamburg on Friday, but 2010 champions Holland, 2012 finalists Australia and rivals Scotland head the list of challengers for the prestigious crown.

Read more »