RFL vice president calls for Australia and New Zealand to make World Cup U-turn

James Tedesco of the Kangaroos fends off a tackle from Benji Marshall of the Kiwis during the Oceania Cup Test Match between Australia and New Zealand at WIN Stadium in Wollongong, Friday, October 25, 2019

Rugby Football League vice president Mike Smith has called on Australia and New Zealand to make a U-turn on their decision to withdraw from the World Cup.

World Cup chief executive told a press conference last week that the chances of the tournament going ahead in England this autumn are 50-50 following the withdrawals from Australia and New Zealand.

Smith wants the Kangaroos and Kiwis to reconsider their decision to pull out of this autumn’s tournament.

In an open letter to Australia and New Zealand, Smith wrote: “I know a lot of good people in Australia through rugby league and my message to them is: ‘the tournament won’t be the same without you, we want you here and there’s still time to reconsider, even at this late stage’.

“Rugby league is our common ground, something we all care passionately about. I know this decision hasn’t been taken lightly Down Under, but this tournament matters so much to rugby league in the northern hemisphere in terms of growing the game, reaching new audiences and building a lasting legacy. We need your support.

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“We need you to understand that player welfare is our consideration too and that tournament organisers have gone to enormous lengths to put every conceivable assurance in place.

“To my good friend Blake Solly at South Sydney Rabbitohs, to NRL CEO Andrew Abdo and to others such as Australia RL chair Peter V’landys I say: ‘listen to your players, hear their hopes and dreams, and pick up the phone to Jon Dutton. He’ll be delighted to speak with you.'”

More on World Cup

Australia coach Mal Meninga “heartbroken” over World Cup withdrawal, says Adrian Lam

Tonga committed to World Cup but elite players must be included, says Kristian Woolf

England star Sam Tomkins hopes player power saves World Cup

About Drew Darbyshire 8026 Articles
Love Rugby League Deputy Editor. Joined the site ahead of the 2017 World Cup and been a full-time reporter since 2018.


  1. Hope these are just formalities and the IRL and RFL goes ahead with the competition. It’s time to move on. The 2021 world cup stands to be more memorable without AUS and NZ.

    They should inform the public about the two teams that are going to replace them in the women’s and men’s tournaments. And if they’re smart they’ll enter two extra men’s teams in the form of Serbia and Turkey. Use this tournament to promote the sport internationally.

  2. Its is slam in face for Australia and New Zealand to withdraw. I would say, our brothers from the north would not withdraw if the games were played in down under…we should head north and keep the game alive.

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