Rugby League World Cup: Organisers determined to push on despite absence of Australia and New Zealand

WORLD CUP organisers have reiterated their determination to make a success of this autumn’s event, despite the withdrawal of the top two nations, but admitted they are facing “significant challenges”.

Wednesday, 28th July 2021, 7:39 pm
Updated Wednesday, 28th July 2021, 8:02 pm

The tournament has been in the balance since the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) announced earlier this month they will not be signing a participation agreement, because of concerns over player welfare.

That prompted a backlash from many involved in the sport in the northern hemisphere, including International Rugby League, the RFL, Super League and players’ representatives.

The tournament is regarded as crucial to rugby league’s recovery in this country following the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Jon Dutton, Chief Executive RLWC2021, is determined to keep the show on the road (Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

The Rugby League World Cup 2021 (RLWC2021) board insist they remain “determined to deliver the biggest and best ever Rugby League World Cup in history”.

However, a statement released following the latest emergency meeting, held yesterday, admitted the board are “also realistic about the significant challenges that threaten that ambition”.

With many NRL stars reported to be keen to take part, despite their clubs’ concerns, player pressure could be a key to forcing a change of heart by Australia and New Zealand.

Jon Dutton, the tournament’s chief executive, confirmed: “In light of the decision by the ARLC and NZRL to withdraw from the event, the board have instructed myself and the RLWC2021 team to continue to hold further urgent discussions with all stakeholders, particularly the players, aimed at correcting misinformation as well as measuring the sentiment on proceeding with the tournament.”

Australia celebrate after winning the Rugby League World Cup final between Australia and England, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia, 2 December 2017. But as it stands they won't be defending it (Picture: SWpix.com/PhotosportNZ)

The opening matches are due to be staged on Saturday, October 23.

With time running out, Dutton added: “The RLWC2021 board recognise the need to bring clarity and certainty to the situation.

“They have also underlined the relentless work that has been taking place to establish the most safe and secure environment for all involved, in line with other world-class major events that have taken place successfully in the UK in 2021.”

Dutton said discussions will continue with the UK government, players, competing nations, the 18 host towns and cities, 21 venues and International Rugby League.