Former England coach Steve McNamara is urging the NRL clubs to put their self-interest to one side and get behind the World Cup.
The Kangaroos and Kiwis released a joint statement on Thursday confirming their withdrawal from this year’s World Cup in England, citing that it is “too unsafe to travel” due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It was only last week that World Cup organisers announced that the tournament would go ahead as planned, but the recent news from the southern hemisphere has placed the event in serious doubt.
McNamara, the Catalans Dragons head coach who worked as an assistant at Sydney Roosters and New Zealand Warriors, has little sympathy for the stance taken by the NRL clubs.
“They’re talking from 12,000 miles away,” he said. “I think they’ve got their own interests at heart and I understand that to some extent but we’re talking about the World Cup, the pinnacle of our sport.
“I’ve been involved as an assistant coach and as a head coach, both in the southern hemisphere and the northern hemisphere, and ultimately, it’s what players play for.
“There’s all the tribalism that goes with being a club player but there is nothing quite like that feeling of playing for your country in a World Cup.
“You hear a lot of ‘we’re all in this together’ and we always look after each other but I don’t think with some of this it’s the case.
“I think some people are trying to look after their own backyard. We’ll be affected more than any other club team in the world with the amount of players we’ll have out but we want the World Cup to go ahead.”
Meanwhile, Ireland international Tyrone McCarthy wants to see this autumn’s World Cup go ahead as planned despite the withdrawals of Australia and New Zealand.
“I’m really disappointed not only from being a fan of the game, but also by not having the opportunity to play against the Kiwis,” McCarthy told Love Rugby League.
“You want to see as many of the best players as there can be. You can understand their reasoning in some extent but, as for the tournament, I’d like to think that it is going to go ahead.
“From our point of view, it is disappointing as rugby league fans but the beauty of the World Cup is that it attracts new fans and some of the new fans turning up won’t even know who some of the England players are so I still think it is a massive opportunity for the game to showcase itself and, in theory, it opens it up a little bit more to everyone else.
“Everyone wants to see the best players but if the NRL don’t rule out the players playing, then you might see some of their players representing their heritage and playing for the tier two nations. I know (James) Tedesco played for Italy in the last World Cup, so you might still see those players but in a different jersey.”