Rugby Union World Cup: Organizers remain confident event will go ahead despite “challenges”

The organizers of the 2021 Rugby Union World Cup have confirmed that the tournament will go ahead as planned and remain confident that Australia will be in England to defend their trophy.

The event had been questioned due to the increase in Covid-19 cases and resistance from Australian NRL clubs concerned about travel and quarantine restrictions caused by the pandemic.

Tournament general manager Jon Dutton admitted at a press conference that Australia had yet to sign the participation agreement and Troy Grant, president of the International Rugby League, revealed officials had identified potential replacements in the event of withdrawal of teams.

But Dutton says organizers have set up a squad in Sydney in an attempt to strike a deal and is confident they can avoid a situation similar to 1995, when Australia came for the World Cup with a squad. insufficient. team at the top of the Super League.

“We expect all 21 nations to come to the UK,” he said. “We all met them earlier in the week.

“We are aware that we still have challenges to overcome.

“But we wouldn’t be making that announcement today if we didn’t have the confidence that these nations would come to this country and take part in the tournament.

2021 Rugby Union World Cup draw

(AP Archives)

“It is really important for us to remove uncertainty and build confidence.”

The tournament kicks off on 23 October when England face Samoa at Newcastle’s St James’ Park, the first of 61 matches in the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions which will all be broadcast live by the BBC.

The men’s and women’s finals will be played at Old Trafford on November 27 and Dutton says ticket sales have far exceeded expectations.

Grant said: “The World Cup this year is critical. There was no international rugby league in 2020 and we sorely missed it.

“If that didn’t happen, the reputation of international football could be immense.”

We have great momentum and there is a resounding desire from the government to reopen and restore confidence here in the UK for the tournament to go ahead.

Tournament General Manager Jon Dutton

Half of the 16 men’s teams will come from the southern hemisphere and Dutton has confirmed his organization will foot the bill for charter flights to bring more than 400 players and officials from Australia and ensure other biosecurity measures are put in place. square.

Dutton, who was involved in the successful staging of the 2013 World Cup in the UK and started preparations for the 2021 tournament more than five years ago, had delayed a final decision for the past three months and admitted that he had passed the point of no return. .

“Today marks 100 days and we believe it is a good time to eliminate any remaining uncertainty,” said Dutton, who confirmed he had considered both a postponement and a cancellation.

“We have great momentum and there is a resounding desire from the UK Government to reopen and restore confidence here in the UK for the tournament to play out.

“We saw how amazing the European Football Championships were and now we see international athletes traveling all over the world in a safe environment to play their sport.

“This tournament is bigger than sport and bigger than rugby league, this is our time to shine.”

St James’ Park Magic Weekend File Photo

(PA wire)

Dutton says player vaccination won’t be mandatory, but that there are plans for a testing regime and a bio-secure hybrid bubble and he says some of the restrictions that need to be lifted next Monday – like social distancing and face masks – will be maintained.

“We have to create a balance between a life experience and the safety of the players,” added Dutton.

“Safety is of paramount importance, but I would describe the biosecurity measures that we have already put in place and incredibly similar to what is experienced with the Indian cricket team.

“I think the additional measures we need to put in place are small and I am very confident that we will be able to do so in the coming weeks.”

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