Both Australia and New Zealand have pulled out of the Rugby League World Cup that is set to get underway this spring in England.
Australian Rugby League Commission and their Kiwi counterparts, New Zealand Rugby League, have requested that the whole competition is moved to 2022 because of COVID concerns.
Official word is yet to come from Rugby League World Cup organisers, but the idea of two of the competition’s favourites pulling out, as they have here, could force them into a rethink in terms of dates.
The tournament was only confirmed last month, but the Kangaroos did not sign a participation agreement from the get go, raising concerns that player isolation when re-entering the country would impact staff and even the NRL pre-season.
Head of NZRL Greg Peters said: “The safety and wellbeing of our people is the main priority, and unfortunately, that cannot be guaranteed to our satisfaction.
“There are stark differences between how the pandemic is being managed in the UK compared to Australasia, and recent developments have highlighted how quickly things can change.
“The tournament organisers have moved heaven and earth to make this work, so it is not an easy decision, but the Covid-19 situation in the UK shows no sign of improving, and it’s simply too unsafe to send teams and staff over.”
ARLC’s Peter V’landys added: “Not participating in this year’s World Cup is not a decision the commission has taken lightly, but we must put the best interests of our players and officials first. Protecting them is our absolute priority.”
“In the current environment, the risks to the safety, health and wellbeing of the players and officials travelling from Australia to participate in the tournament this year are insurmountable.”
“We have again requested the IRL and Rugby League World Cup consider postponing the event until 2022 to enable all players to participate.”