Organisers of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup have confirmed the tournament will go ahead as planned.
The event had been in some doubt due to the surge in Covid-19 cases and resistance from Australia’s NRL clubs amid concerns over travel and quarantine restrictions caused by the pandemic.
Tournament chief executive Jon Dutton said: “We are delighted to be able to provide clarity and certainty to fans, players, partners, media and those that have supported our journey over the past few years.
“We recognise there are still many challenges ahead but we will work relentlessly and will take the most extraordinary measures with the support of all involved to stage the tournament in 100 days’ time.
“Despite the adversity we have faced, we have never lost sight of our core purpose of making a positive impact on people’s lives. Our social impact programme has and will continue to be a beacon of much needed positivity and hope in communities across England.
“We have no doubt that the Rugby League family, along with the 20,021 key workers we have invited, the many fans who will see the action live in the stadiums across England and the millions watching around the world will be part of a unifying celebration of sport and humanity.”
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said: “As we reach 100 days to go, the anticipation is building with rugby league’s biggest competition coming back to England.
“After the challenges of the past 18 months where the positive impact of rugby league in communities has shone through, the moment when the men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams take to the pitch will be a watershed moment for both the sport and the country.
“I’m delighted that fans can look forward to a festival of Rugby League that promises to inspire new fans and grow the grassroots, and the Government has been pleased to play its part in supporting this incredible inclusive event.”
Troy Grant, chairman of the International Rugby League, added: “I am delighted that all the stakeholders in International Rugby League have worked together to achieve this important outcome for the global game. RLWC2021 has great ambitions which will help grow the interest and participation in our sport across the world.
“We can now all look forward with certainty and excitement to the kick-off of the tournament in Newcastle on 23 October and again I wish to thank all those involved, the organisers, the nations federations and the key stakeholders, for the leadership which has delivered this positive result in the most challenging of situations.”
The tournament will kick off on October 23 when England face Samoa at Newcastle’s St James’ Park, the first of 61 matches across the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions which will all be shown live by the BBC.