International Rugby League chief Troy Grant says a number of players and coaches have expressed their disappointment that a decision to play in the World Cup has been taken away from them.
Australia and New Zealand have rocked the rugby league world by withdrawing from the World Cup, citing player welfare issues.
It leaves the whole tournament in doubt, but has also led to some players and coaches bemoaning that the choice has been taken away from them.
Grant said: “I have been in regular communication with the RLPA and a number of international players and coaches who have been satisfied with the World Cup’s biosecurity arrangements and expressed a clear determination to travel to England and proudly represent their nations.
“They have expressed to me that they feel their own personal choice to participate or not in the world cup has been taken from them.
“The RLPA have again committed to continue to work with IRL and the Local Organising Committee towards a 2021 tournament including Australian and New Zealand players who have dual eligibility and who are now keen to play for other nations.”
World Cup organisers had been working to mitigate risks and satisfy the demands of the Australian and New Zealand bodies, and only last week bullishly announced the tournament would be going ahead.
Following the successful European Championships football tournament, as well as the upcoming Olympics games, and several international matches in other sports like cricket and rugby union, there have been questions as to why the attitude towards rugby league is different.
Grant added: “Every sporting organisation, every industry, government and family globally have been impacted by this pandemic.
“I find it difficult to find the words that adequately describe my disappointment with that decision (to withdraw).
“My job from here is to understand the LOC’s and UK government’s attitude towards continuing with the RLWC without Australia and New Zealand, if that is a viable option, or consider other options available to us.
“The next week will be critical but despite whatever happens my job as IRL Chair is to pick up the pieces of international rugby league’s tarnished reputation as a result of these decisions when quite clearly other sports have demonstrated their ability to run events during the pandemic, both in England and in other countries with equal challenges from the pandemic, including Australian and New Zealand representation.
“The obvious question being asked of us is why rugby league players are not able to make the same sacrifices as players from other sports? Sadly, players are telling me they haven’t had the opportunity to make that decision for themselves.”