World Cup organisers came out fighting last week with the determined message that the three tournaments at the end of the year will go ahead.
If ever there was a team that didn’t deserve such uncertainty, it was that of Jon Dutton’s – who have done an admirable job in the unique window of opportunity that is created by operating within a tournament window.
They have been left between a rock and a hard place. Significant monies have been spent, UK government funding has been awarded, tickets have been sold and sponsorships promised.
But it’s hard to see how the tournament can go ahead without Australia’s full buy-in.
Will the Rugby League World Cup actually go ahead?@PhilGould15 has a dire prediction.
— NRL on Nine (@NRLonNine) July 19, 2021
Yes, there’s the argument that international rugby league needs to show it can get by without Australia and start forging its own path given their apparent reluctance to commit to a long-term programme.
However, the reality is that a large percentage of the players for all nations come from the NRL, and it’s hard to see how the grievances over releasing players to play for Australia wouldn’t be matched in doing the same for other nations.
The likes of New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Cook Islands are all made up of a majority of NRL players, and even some of the European nations will rely on players from Down Under.
Without them, there simply isn’t a World Cup.
It’s unfortunate, because the pandemic is nobody’s fault. The World Cup and IRL bodies have had to nail their flag to the mast and boldly go ahead.
They will hope that the three tournament approach will deliver the biggest and most successful World Cup of all time, and give British rugby league in particular a much needed boost.
But there are some very big bumps in the road ahead that may not get ironed out.
While we may have reached “freedom day”, there’s no end in sight to the COVID issues that have plagued Super League in recent weeks.
Warrington’s game at Leigh scheduled for this Thursday is the latest to fall foul of the virus.
With players largely in the age group that is yet to receive one or even both vaccines, and the frequency of testing in Super League, it’s unlikely this issue is going to go away until at least the end of this season.
Speaking of the World Cup too, it’s another elephant in the room – just what would the contingency be if there are positive tests within a national squad? A 10 day isolation could effectively wipe out the entire group stage, and that’s before considering the return to play protocols.
On a lighter note, it’s great to see Coventry Bears getting some rewards this year for their work in trying to expand the game.
— Coventry Bears (@CoventryBears) July 17, 2021
A win over Keighley on Friday added to wins earlier in the season over Rochdale and Hunslet, has led to coach Richard Squires saying that it should no longer be a shock when the Bears pick up wins.
With them very active in their local community, playing at a nice facility and with a large number of local players, they are the epitome of what expansion should look like in the semi-professional game.
Maybe one day, we’ll see them playing in a full-time environment with locally developed players.