Phil Egan
Phil Egan

09.45 22 Jul 2021


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Australia and New Zealand have both opted out of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup due to "player welfare and safety concerns" related to Covid-19.

11-time winners Australia and 2008 champions New Zealand were due to travel to the UK later this year for the tournament, which kicks off on October 23rd and runs until November 27th.

The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) have asked organisers if the tournament can be pushed back a year to 2022 due to a rise in coronavirus cases in the UK.

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Australia and New Zealand did not sign a participation agreement when it was announced earlier in July that the World Cup would go ahead with one of the other issues, the strict quarantine rules on both squads upon their arrival home.

A joint statement released by both nations read: "The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) today informed the International Rugby League (IRL) and Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) organisers that Australia and New Zealand will not compete in a 2021 World Cup because of player welfare and safety concerns.

"The ARLC and NZRL have 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."

NZRL chief executive Greg Peters said: "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 AM added: "In the current environment, the risks to the safety, health and well-being 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."

In response, a statement from the tournament organisers read: "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."


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