Organisers of the 2021 World Cup say urgent talks are continuing in a bid to deliver the tournament as planned in the autumn.
Officials were taken aback by the decision of Australia and New Zealand to pull out and chief executive Jon Dutton has acknowledged that has dealt a major blow to their hopes of delivering the biggest and best tournament.
The World Cup directors held a second emergency board meeting on Wednesday evening but Dutton says no decision has been made on whether to postpone the tournament or press ahead without the big two.
In a statement, Dutton said: “While the Board reiterated the determination to deliver the biggest and best ever Rugby League World Cup in history, they are also realistic about the significant challenges that threaten that ambition.
“In light of the decision by the ARLC and NZRL to withdraw from the event, the Board have instructed myself and the RLWC2021 team to continue to hold further urgent discussions with all stakeholders, particularly the players, aimed at correcting misinformation as well as measuring the sentiment on proceeding with the tournament.
“The RLWC2021 Board recognise the need to bring clarity and certainty to the situation.
“They have also underlined the relentless work that has been taking place to establish the most safe and secure environment for all involved – in line with other world class major events that have taken place successfully in the UK in 2021.”
Dutton says talks will take place with the UK Government, who backed the tournament to the tune of £25million, the 18 host towns and cities and the 21 venues chosen to host the 61 matches across the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions, as well as the players and teams.
They will also consult with the International Federation on the implications of the decision made by the ARLC and NZRL and replacement teams, amid reports that Indigenous and Maori teams may be considered.
The tournament is due to get under way at Newcastle’s St James’ Park on October 23, with England taking on Samoa in their opening group game.