Scrapping rugby league Ashes would be ‘real blow’ to World Cup 2021
Rugby League World Cup 2021 chief executive Jon Dutton admits losing the England v Australia series this autumn would be a “real blow” for next year’s competition.
Shaun Wane’s side are due to host the reigning world champions over three successive Tests in October and November at Bolton, Leeds United’s Elland Road stadium and then Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
However, with both Super League and the NRL remaining on lockdown for the foreseeable future due to coronavirus, there is a growing fear that the much-anticipated Kangaroos tour will have to be shelved.
The World Cup is due to be staged here across England just 12 months later and the clashes against Australia were set to whet the appetite.
Dutton said: “It would be a real blow if it did go. We hoped to use that as a marketing tool to show people what the World Cup will truly be – nation going against nation. But we’ll wait patiently to hear from the RFL and ARLC (Australia Rugby League Commission) to see whether it goes ahead or not.”
Meanwhile, amid all the uncertainty created by the global pandemic, Dutton said pushing back the tournament to 2022 had not been considered deeming it “unfeasible” regardless. Instead, there is hope more people could actually attend given so many games will be lost this year.
Organisers this week pledged 20,021 free tickets for key workers currently helping battle Covid-19 and some tickets for children will be as cheap as £2.21. Dutton explained: “When we come through this, whatever the new normal looks like, people will want to have something to look forward to. And I maintain this will be a celebration of inclusivity, what a great sport rugby league is and once again how united we can be.”
Preparations for the tournament were due to be ramped up next month but he admitted it is “neither appropriate nor practical” to follow that timeline during the current crisis.
“We are mindful, at this moment, there are hugely more important things for people to focus on,” he conceded.