Decision whether to postpone 2021 World Cup to be made next week

A decision on whether to press ahead with the 2021 World Cup at the end of the season will be made next week.

Four months out from the opening game between England and Samoa at Newcastle’s St James’ Park, the 16 competing nations still do not know if the event will go ahead as planned or be moved forward 12 months to 2022.

Organisers have held back on making a final decision but tournament chief executive Jon Dutton has admitted that time is running out.

The rapid progress of the UK’s Covid-19 vaccination programme has given rise to optimism but it is thought a number of countries have yet to sign participation agreements and NRL clubs are said to remain nervous about releasing their players, who would have to quarantine for two weeks on their return to Australia.

With at least half the players from the 16 nations due to arrive from the southern hemisphere, officials have been holding talks with the Australian Rugby League Players Association.

It is thought more than 400 players and officials based in the southern hemisphere have been offered chartered flights for the return trip to England to avoid mixing with the general public.

Organisers have spent five years planning for the 2021 World Cup and are desperately hoping to avoid a postponement, which would mean a clash with the UEFA World Cup to be held in Qatar.

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