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Van Gerwen to begin defence against Cullen


Michael Van Gerwen

Michael Van Gerwen

Michael Van Gerwen

Michael van Gerwen will be the star name in action on the opening night of the William Hill World Darts Championship later this month and the reigning champion will begin with a tricky tie against England's Joe Cullen.

Indeed, despite being second favourite to retain his title behind 16-time champion Phil Taylor, van Gerwen will not be taking Cullen for granted after it was Cullen who came out on top when the pair last met in a Players Championship in Dublin back in October.

Van Gerwen is relishing the start of the tournament on December 18th.

"Joe is a fantastic player," said Van Gerwen. "He has been on the circuit for quite a long time and is a very talented player, but maybe that will get the best out of me.

"He is quite a quick player and I really like playing against him. I'm looking forward to it."

Taylor will get his campaign underway against German qualifier Jyhan Artut, while two-time champion Adrian Lewis has been pitched against Dave Pallett who is one of 24 players making their debut in the PDC world championship.

Northern Ireland's Mickey Mansell was the first non-seeded player to be drawn and he will take on the number 18 seed Kim Huybrechts, while 'The History Maker' Brendan Dolan from Fermanagh is the number 11 seed and he will face either Nolan Arendse or Alex Hon who begin in the preliminary round.

Last years runner-up Peter Wright has a tricky assignment in Gerwyn Price but the likely tie of the opening round will be the meeting of the Dutch pair of Jelle Klassen and Christian Kist who are both past winners of the Lakeside Championship.

A total of £1.25m is on offer for this years World Championship which also has a dedicated Sky Sports channel for the first time.