Rugby League World Cup blow: Australia and New Zealand say they won't compete in 2021 event
Australia and New Zealand say they will not take part in a World Cup this autumn and have asked for it to be postponed.
Their announcement was made today (Thursday), exactly a week after organisers said they had “passed the point of no return” and the tournament would go ahead with or without the southern hemisphere giants.
A statement from the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) confirmed the two countries “will not compete in a 2021 World Cup because of player welfare and safety concerns”.
It added: “The ARLC and NZRL has again requested the RLWC2021 be postponed until 2022 to minimise risk of players contracting Covid-19 and ensure the best outcome for player well being.”
The tournament organisers RLWC2021 have released a statement in response.
It said “RLWC2021 note the disappointing statement made by the ARLC and NZRL which may have wide ranging implications for international rugby league.
“RLWC2021 were informed at very short notice and will continue discussions with all stakeholders to agree on the best way forward.
“A further statement will be made in due course.”
The World Cup is due to begin three months tomorrow, when England are scheduled to play Samoa at Newcastle's St James' Park.
The tournament, which includes men's women's and wheelchair events, is set to be the biggest in the sport's history.
Organisers are unwilling to postpone because of the short notice until the tournament states, advanced state of preparations, commercial and television deals and investment from the UK government.
The later stages of a 2022 tournament would also clash with the football World Cup in Qatar, inevitably leading to the rugby league event being overshadowed.
Doncaster is due to host three men’s group fixtures at the Keepmoat Stadium: France v Greece (Monday 25th October, 2.30pm), Samoa v Greece (Sunday 31st October, 5pm), Papua New Guinea v Wales (Monday 8th November, 7.30pm). The town has also been selected to be a training base for Samoa.