Covid-19

It’s OFF! Rugby League World Cup is POSTPONED after champions Australia and New Zealand withdraw

It’s OFF! Rugby League World Cup to be POSTPONED after champions Australia and New Zealand pulled out from playing in UK over Covid fears

  • The Rugby League World Cup has been postponed after Australia and New Zealand pulled out
  • The World Cup, which had men’s, women’s and wheelchair events, was due to take place in the UK this October 
  • The southern hemisphere nations have withdrawn over Covid-19 safety concerns 
  • Despite weeks of trying to assure the two countries, the tournament will not go ahead 

The Rugby League World Cup has been postponed following the withdrawals of defending champions Australia and New Zealand. 

The tournament, which was due to take place in the UK in October, had been hanging in the balance after the two southern hemisphere nations cited ‘player welfare and safety concerns’ over the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Sportsmail revealed a week ago that there was a 50-50 chance of the World Cup going ahead as organisers scrambled frantically to address Australia and New Zealand’s concerns and implore them to attend the competition. 

The Rugby League World cup has been postponed after Australia and New Zealand withdrew

The Rugby League World cup has been postponed after Australia and New Zealand withdrew

Meetings with all the nations involved were to include detailed briefings about Covid protocols and quarantine measures to assure participants of their safety during the World Cup.

Players were then invited to take part in an anonymous survey on whether they wanted to go ahead with the tournament.

Confirmation of the postponement comes just days after all 16 National Rugby League clubs backed Australia and New Zealand’s decision not to travel for the tournament. 

Reigning champions Australia (pictured) and New Zealand cited Covid-19 saftey concerns for their withdrawal

Reigning champions Australia (pictured) and New Zealand cited Covid-19 saftey concerns for their withdrawal

Rugby League World Cup chief executive Jon Dutton (left) paraded the  trophy at Downing  Street with Prime Minister Boris Johnson before the Australian and New Zealand withdrawals

Rugby League World Cup chief executive Jon Dutton (left) paraded the  trophy at Downing  Street with Prime Minister Boris Johnson before the Australian and New Zealand withdrawals

This was despite the Rugby League World Cup organisers pledging to spend £5million on the safety of Australia-based players and staff at the tournament, including chartering flights to and from the UK for up to 400 people. 

There were also proposals for an indigenous all-star team to replace Australia and a Maori side to take New Zealand’s place at the World Cup, but these appear to have fallen flat. 

The extraordinary developments have been punctured by bitter feuding between the organisers and the southern hemisphere nations. 

Simon Johnson, chairman of the Rugby Football League, expressed his anger at the decision taken by Australia and New Zealand to withdraw when it was first announced on 22 July.

‘This selfish, parochial and cowardly decision is one that need not have been taken because the Rugby League World Cup organisers have bent over backwards to offer every assurance to the Australians and Kiwis,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

At the time, New Zealand Rugby League chief executive Greg Peters said: ‘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.’  


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