The 2021 Rugby League World Cup has been postponed until 2022 due to the withdrawal of Australia and New Zealand.
Australia are the current world champions, but decided alongside their fellow antipodean rivals to miss this year’s planned event due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
The event had been scheduled to take place in England this October, with the first match due in Newcastle on 23 October. Men’s, women’s and wheelchair events were planned.
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Australia and New Zealand said ‘player welfare and safety concerns’ regarding Covid-19 were at the heart of their decision.
However the Rugby League Players’ Association had previously said some of the affected players had wanted to travel to the tournament, and described the decision to withdraw, taken in July, as ‘disappointing.’ The World Cup organisers were given four minutes’ notice of the decision, announced on 22 July.
New Zealand and Australia have had some of the lowest case numbers of coronavirus in the world, but also have some of the strictest border controls for people wishing to enter and leave the country. For Australian players wishing to attend the World Cup, they may have faced quarantines of 14 days up on their return.
The World Cup organisers said in a statement:
"Rugby League World Cup 2021 (RLWC2021) and the UK Government have today announced their intention to stage the flagship event in the international Rugby League calendar in 2022.
The extremely difficult decision was taken by the RLWC2021 Board, which includes representation from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the International Rugby League (IRL) Board.
They continued: "Ultimately this decision has been detrimental to the plans and ambitions of many of the competing nations and potential replacement teams.
"A key factor was ensuring that fans of Rugby League are able to enjoy the best possible tournament, which was not possible under these circumstances. "
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