Australia and New Zealand pull out of Rugby League World Cup due to "player welfare and safety concerns" related to Covid-19.
The World Cup is scheduled to take place in England during the autumn, but The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) have asked for it to be rescheduled to 2022. NZRL chief 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 chairman Peter V'landys said “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.”
England lifted all restrictions on Monday 19th July which shows a stark contrast to Australia where almost half of the population has been put back into lockdown and there are several stay-at-home orders in place across the country. Organisers confirmed earlier this month that the tournament would go ahead but Australia did not sign the participation agreement as any players travelling back from the tournament would have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
Rugby League World Cup 2021 said in a statement “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.”
You can read the ARLC and NZRL statement here.