Neither Australia nor New Zealand will take part in the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, with both nations announcing their decision to pull out over “player welfare and safety concerns” on Thursday.
Both the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) have requested the World Cup — due to be held in the United Kingdom — be pushed back until 2022.
Both bodies cited the high risk of Covid-19 infection in the United Kingdom, as well as Australia’s worsening coroanvirus situation, as grounds for the decision.
“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,’’ said ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys.
“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. The majority of NRL players are currently living away from home under difficult biosecurity protocols. They would then be required to remain under protocols and away from home for the duration of the tournament before again quarantining on return to Australia. This is too much to ask our players and officials to do.
“We have again requested the IRL and Rugby League World Cup consider postponing the event until 2022 to enable all players to participate.”
NZRL CEO Greg Peters added: “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.
“We understand how disappointing this is for fans and those involved; however player and staff safety remains paramount.”