Ronnie O'Sullivan will open the defence of his Betfred World Snooker Championship title against debutant Mark Joyce at the Crucible.

Veteran Joyce, 37, turned professional in 2006, but had never previously made it through to the showpiece tournament, securing his place with victory over Brazil’s Igor Figueiredo in the last qualifying round.

Elsewhere in Thursday’s draw, former champion Stuart Bingham, another who came through qualifying, will meet China’s Ding Junhui, while world number one Judd Trump plays Liam Highfield.

Bingham, who claimed the world crown in 2015, was forced to win two matches in qualifying for the first time since 2011 as a result of dropping out of the top 16.

Australian Neil Robertson is viewed as a leading contender to win a second world title following an impressive campaign so far – beating O’Sullivan in the Tour Championship final – and will take on Liang Wenbo.

Three-time former champion Mark Selby, this year’s fourth seed, has a first-round match against Kurt Maflin, while 2020 runner-up Kyren Wilson meets Gary Wilson, a former semi-finalist.

Debutant Sam Craigie faces three-time former champion Mark Williams and veteran John Higgins plays Tian Pengfei as he begins the quest for a fifth world crown.

The 2021 tournament begins on Saturday and will see fans return to the Crucible as part of the UK government pilot programme following the easing of lockdown restrictions in England.

Organisers hope to be able to have a capacity crowd attend the final, which is set for the last two days, with the winner on 3 May in line for a £500,000 top prize.

Masters champion Yan Bingtao faces qualifier Martin Gould, Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen plays Lyu Haotian and Ricky Walden will play 16th seed Anthony McGill.

Jamie Jones will make a return to the Crucible having completed his one-year suspension and progressed through qualifying.

The 33-year-old, who reached the quarter-finals on his Crucible debut in 2012, will play eighth seed Stephen Maguire in the first round.

Jones fell off the tour at the end of the 2019 season following a ban for failing to report a corrupt approach, although he was cleared of match-fixing.

Two-time finalist Ali Carter comes up against Jack Lisowski, while Barry Hawkins meets Matthew Selt and David Gilbert will take on Chris Wakelin.

Veteran Mark Davis came through qualifying to reach the Crucible for the 12th time in his career and plays Shaun Murphy, the 2005 world champion, in the first round.