Australia and New Zealand pulling out of the World Cup may have wide ranging implications for international rugby league, according to tournament organisers.
The Kangaroos and Kiwis have withdrawn from this year’s World Cup in England, saying it is unsafe to travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The two governing bodies – the ARLC and NZRL – have called for the tournament to be postponed until 2022.
It was only announced last week that the World Cup will go ahead as planned this autumn, but the recent news from the southern hemisphere has put the tournament in serious doubt.
A RLWC2021 spokesperson said: “RLWC2021 note the disappointing statement made by the ARLC and NZRL which may have wide ranging implications for international rugby league.
“RLWC2021 were informed at very short notice and will continue discussions with all stakeholders to agree on the best way forward. A further statement will be made in due course.”
The World Cup, which features 21 nations throughout the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments, is scheduled to get underway at St James’ Park in Newcastle on Saturday, October 23, with hosts England taking on Samoa.
A joint statement from the ARLC and NZRL read: “The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) today informed the International Rugby League (IRL) and Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) organisers that Australia and New Zealand will not compete in a 2021 World Cup because of player welfare and safety concerns.
“The ARLC and NZRL have again requested the RLWC2021 be postponed until 2022 to minimise risk of players contracting COVID-19 and ensure the best outcome for player well-being.
“The ARLC and NZRL have resolved, that in the present environment the risks to athletes and officials travelling to the UK to participate in the tournament this year are too great, and it is unable to endorse Australia and New Zealand participating in the RLWC in 2021.”