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GARY ANDERSON begins the defence of his William Hill World Darts Championship title on Thursday night, and admits he^ll be in unknown territory as the sport^s biggest-ever event kicks off at Alexandra Palace in London.

Scottish star Anderson enjoyed the greatest night of his career by defeating Phil Taylor 7-6 in last year^s final, lifting the Sid Waddell Trophy and being crowned as World Champion.

The 44-year-old opens his title defence against either England^s Andy Boulton or Denmark^s Per Laursen on Thursday night, with that duo kicking off the tournament with their preliminary round clash.

While Anderson has enjoyed a year of being introduced as World Champion across the globe, he admits to feeling the nerves as he prepares to return to the Alexandra Palace stage in front of a sell-out 3,000 crowd.

"I don^t know what to expect!" said Anderson, who is a 7/1 chance with sponsors William Hill to retain his title.

"Phil Taylor^s had it 15 or 16 times but I probably won^t know until I go to walk on. My worst moment is walking up to the walk-on; once I get on stage I^m fine.

"I^m really nervous, especially ahead of the first round. You just want to win and get through and you can relax and enjoy Christmas then.

"It^s the World Championship, this is what we all aim for and I^ve enjoyed being the World Champion this year. I^m going to look forward to it and we^ll see what the outcome is."

Thursday^s opening night also features number four seed Peter Wright, the 2014 World Championship runner-up, taking on former World Youth Champion Keegan Brown in a mouth-watering contest.

Wright has been tipped by Sky Sports pundit Wayne Mardle to claim his first major title on January 3 at Alexandra Palace, with the Scot having reached three further televised finals during 2015.

"I can^t wait," said colourful Wright, a quarter-final loser to Anderson 12 months ago. "I^ve worked so hard this year and prepared really well for the World Championship.

"I^ve been getting closer to a big title and if you^re going to win your first one, it might as well be the World Championship!"

Another eagerly-awaited clash sees two of the sport^s many emerging stars, Wales^ Jamie Lewis and Northern Ireland^s Daryl Gurney, meet in their first round tie.

Lewis reached his first major quarter-final at the World Grand Prix in October and has broken into the world^s top 32 during 2015, while Gurney was a semi-finalist in a major for the first time at last month^s Players Championship Finals.

The preliminary and first rounds continue with double sessions on Friday, Saturday and Sunday before concluding in the evenings on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of the Christmas break.

Current world number one Michael van Gerwen enters the William Hill World Darts Championship as the best-price 5/4 pre-tournament favourite with the sponsors, ahead of his opening fixture against either Thailand^s Thanawat Gaweenuntawong or Germany^s Rene Eidams on Friday.

Phil Taylor, the 16-time World Champion, is the 9/2 second favourite, with Anderson 7/1, two-time winner Adrian Lewis 20/1, James Wade 25/1 and Wright 28/1, while Dave Chisnall - who hit a nine-dart finish in November^s Grand Slam of Darts - is 35/1.

With Adrian Lewis having hit the tournament^s eighth nine-dart finish a year ago and five perfect legs having been achieved over the past three years at Alexandra Palace, William Hill are offering 8/13 for another moment of magic in the 2015/2016 tournament.

A £15,000 bonus is on offer - on top of the record £1.5 million prize fund - for any player who achieves a nine-dart finish, and would be shared should more than one player land a perfect leg.

In addition, William Hill will be donating £9,000 per nine-darter hit over the course of this year^s event to the PDC^s official charity, the Donna Louise Children^s Hospice.

The William Hill World Darts Championship is being broadcast live on the dedicated Sky Sports Darts channel from December 17-January 3, and will be shown worldwide through the PDC^s range of international broadcast partners.

William Hill World Darts Championship
Thursday December 17 (7pm)
Andy Boulton v Per Laursen (P)
Jamie Lewis v Daryl Gurney
Peter Wright v Keegan Brown
Gary Anderson v Boulton/Laursen
(P) denotes Preliminary Round
Preliminary Round - Best of three sets, best of five legs per set.
First Round - Best of five sets, best of five legs per set, with a tie-break in the fifth set (if required).
For full schedule of play and format, please see

William Hill Odds
Tournament Winner (Selected players)
5/4 Michael van Gerwen
9/2 Phil Taylor
7/1 Gary Anderson
20/1 Adrian Lewis
25/1 James Wade
28/1 Peter Wright
35/1 Dave Chisnall
60/1 Michael Smith, Raymond van Barneveld
66/1 Robert Thornton
80/1 Kim Huybrechts
Full odds available at the William Hill website via