Australia beat England in Brisbane and won the 2017 Rugby League World Cup
Australia and New Zealand have withdrawn from the Rugby League World Cup because they feared “the well-being and safety of players” over Covid-19.
The men’s, women’s and wheelchair events are due to take place in England this fall.
New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) head Greg Peters said it was “just too unsafe” to attend.
Rugby Football League (RFL) chairman Simon Johnson called it a “selfish, narrow-minded and cowardly decision”.
“The organizers of the Rugby League World Cup have leaned back to give the Australians and the Kiwis every security,” Johnson told Radio 4’s Today program.
“We are very dissatisfied with this decision and are not ready to accept it.”
NZRL boss Peters said the decision to withdraw was made because the safety and well-being of the players and staff “cannot be guaranteed to our satisfaction”.
“There are huge differences in how the UK is dealing with the pandemic compared to Australasia, and recent developments have shown how quickly things can change.
“The tournament organizers moved heaven and earth to make this work so it is not an easy decision but the Covid-19 situation in the UK is showing no signs of improvement and it is just too unsafe to send teams and staff.”
Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) Chairman Peter V’landys said: “Not participating in this year’s World Cup is not a decision taken lightly by the commission, but we must serve the best interests of our players and officials Put it first. Protecting you is our “top priority.
“In the current environment, the risks to the safety, health and wellbeing of the players and officials traveling from Australia to compete in the tournament this year are insurmountable.
“We have again asked the IRL and the Rugby League World Cup to postpone the event to 2022 to allow all players to participate.”
About half of the Australian population was there locked again following a surge in Covid-19 cases with home stay orders now in South Australia, Victoria and parts of New South Wales.
This is in sharp contrast to England, where most coronavirus restrictions have now been lifted despite rising cases.
The organizers have only confirmed that the tournament will take place earlier this monthalthough Australia, the owner and 11-time winner, did not sign the participation agreement.
One of the issues discussed earlier is Covid-19 regulations and quarantine rules for players and staff returning to Australia and New Zealand.
Australia’s borders are currently closed, so anyone who returns will have to spend 14 days in a government-managed quarantine.
There are reports that the Australian National Rugby League (NRL) teams want the tournament postponed to next year because those regulations mean that players would not return to their clubs until two weeks before the start of auditions for the 2022 NRL season.
Rugby league officials estimate that around 400-500 players, staff and team officials from NRL sites representing several different countries would be involved in the World Cup.
International Rugby League chair Troy Grant criticized the decision to retire, saying he was in regular contact with the Australian Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) and had received assurances that a number of international players and coaches had met with Safety precautions are satisfied in place.
“While I -preciate the ARLC’s intent to ensure the safety and wellbeing of players, I find it difficult to find the words that adequately describe my dis -pointment with this decision,” he said in a statement.
RFL boss dissatisfied with decision
In response to the decision, RFL Chairman Johnson asked why Australian and New Zealand teams are still traveling to compete in other sports.
He also believes postponing it to 2022 would cause more problems as it would clash with other major sporting events that year.
“I think the UK public would like to know why they have now decided to have a tournament in October when there are athletes in Tokyo in the Olympics, when their rugby union team plans to come to Wales in October and when the New Zealand cricket team was already here to compete, “he said.
“So there is something that rugby league authorities believe is insurmountable where other sports have no problem.
New Zealand won its only Rugby League World Cup in 2008, beating hosts Australia in the final
“The organizers of the Rugby League World Cup have gone to great lengths to make significant commitments, as has the UK Government, to do everything possible to ensure the safety of the athletes when they are here and when they return and travel between them. The rugby league authorities in Australia and New Zealand were simply not ready to accept these assurances.
“Of course it can be postponed, but until the rugby league plays next year we will be competing with the Commonwealth Games and the Fifa World Cup in Qatar.
“October and November 2021 are perfect as all restrictions have been lifted here in the UK and with fans returning to sporting events I believe there will be full attendance.
“We sold tickets. How do we explain to our fans that they won’t see the Australian rugby league team play in Wales in October?”
A statement from the tournament organizers said: “RLWC2021 heed the dis -pointing statement by ARLC and NZRL, which could have far-reaching implications for the international rugby league.
“RLWC2021 was informed at very short notice and will continue discussions with all parties involved in order to agree on the best course of action. A further statement will be made in due course.”
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the Super League said it was “amazing” to give tournament organizers a “matter of minutes” to prepare for their retreat.
“The organizers have done everything in their power to provide both nations with strong evidence of the robust protocols and procedures in place to ensure the safety of players,” said Ken Davy, chairman of the Super League.
“It’s pretty amazing that athletes from Australia and New Zealand will be competing in the Olympics, in addition to the Australian and New Zealand rugby union teams that are in the UK this fall, but their rugby league counterparts have decided to join to withdraw. “
Analysis – “Organizers have big decisions to make”
Rugby League Correspondent Dave Woods
Rugby League World Cup organizers, announced four minutes before Australia’s announcement this morning, now have a big decision to make – continue this year’s tournament without Australia and New Zealand or postpone it to 2022.
Holding the tournament without two of the great powers of the international game would have a huge impact on its credibility.
But postponing it until next year will result in enormous costs and potentially intangible organizational problems. A third option is to cancel completely.
There will be great anger at the Australian clubs from the international match. The serious suspicion is that this decision is based on the self-interests of these clubs.
The organizers of RLWC2021 will point out that this country has already safely hosted major international sporting events this year – the Euros, the Open, Wimbledon. And that Australia sends athletes overseas for other sporting events, including the Olympics.
So, are Australian clubs more concerned about their own backyard problems – how a World Cup would affect their 2022 domestic season – than the good of the game in general?
And, given their general lack of support for the international rugby league, would these Australian clubs still raise barriers to the World Cup even if it were postponed until next year?
To counter this, the game Down Under may point to an ongoing disruption to the rugby league in England as the Super League games are still canceled weekly due to Covid issues.
What confidence can there be that normality will return to normal before the planned RLWC2021 kick-off on October 23?
And with Australia still a long way from meeting its vaccine adoption targets, there is understandable nervousness about potential variants being imported into this country as part of an event like the Rugby League World Cup.
But regardless of the rights and wrongs of ARLC and NZRL’s announcement today, and no matter what h -pens next with the staging of RLWC2021, a massive and unprecedented opportunity to bring the sport of rugby league to a large international audience is now being missed .