Tournament chief confirms RL World Cup go-ahead but holders Australia are yet to sign up
THE POINT of no return has been passed and this year’s World Cup will go ahead, says the tournament’s chief executive.
Jon Dutton insisted he is “very confident” Australia will participate in the event, which kicks off in 99 days’ time.
There had been concerns players from the NRL would not be granted permission by their clubs to take part because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Dutton claimed there is an “incredible appetite for the tournament to be staged”.
Meetings were held with the 21 competing nations earlier this week and Dutton reported: “We acknowledge there are still some things for us to work through but, overridingly this week, we’ve had nothing but positivity.”
The biggest doubt surrounds whether holders Australia will make the trip to the UK.
Dutton said: “There has been lots of speculation, but we are very confident Australia will participate and will join the other 20 competing nations.”
He stressed there is no deadline for the Kangaroos to confirm their involvement, but added: “We have gone past the point of no return - we will stage the tournament this year.
“We have great momentum, there’s resounding desire from the UK government, as part of reopening and rebuilding of confidence in the UK, to see the tournament go ahead.
“We’ve seen the football European Championships and how incredible that was and we are also now seeing international athletes travel around the world in a safe environment to play their sport.”
Troy Grant, chairman of International Rugby League, said it is “critical” the tournament goes ahead.
“In 2020 there was no international rugby league and it was sorely missed, particularly given the momentum that Tonga’s victory over Australia created,” he said.
“The talk I’ve seen across the southern hemisphere is a real yearning for international rugby league to reclaim its status across the game more broadly. As an organisation, we’ve gone through some seismic changes to make that happen. The opportunities the broadcast arrangement for RLWC2021 give us are extraordinary, particularly for the women’s game and that’s something we’re really pleased about and grateful for.”
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