Rugby League: New Zealand and Australian teams withdraw from 2021 Rugby Union World Cup


The Kiwis will not be playing haka at the 2021 Rugby Union World Cup. Photo / Getty

There will be no New Zealand presence at the 2021 Rugby Union World Cup.

The New Zealand Rugby League informed tournament organizers on Thursday that the Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns will not be attending the next event in England, due to player welfare and safety concerns linked to Covid.

New Zealand has competed in every World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1954.

This is not a one-sided move, with the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) also confirming that it will not send teams to the tournament, which is due to start on October 23.

In the joint statement, the NZRL and ARLC said the decision to step down comes after considering the risk of Covid-19 infection in the UK, the deterioration of the environment in Australia and the weather. that a majority of NRL players will travel far from home under strict biosecurity. conditions before the World Cup.

They have decided that the risks to athletes and officials participating in the tournament this year are too great and both organizations are asking for the event to be postponed until 2022.

The evolution is not a surprise. Behind the scenes, there has been growing tension between the powerbrokers in Australasia (essentially the NRL) and the tournament organizers, given their differing views on what is possible.

The bosses of the RLWC 2021, as well as the International Rugby League (IRL) were determined to find a way to make the event happen, even with the undeniable challenges of bringing so many teams to England, in especially all teams from the southern hemisphere.

This is partly because the IRL, which oversees the event, relies on the tournament as its sole source of income and needs funding. The event is also seen as a much needed boost for sport in the northern hemisphere, with an unprecedented broadcast deal with the BBC (61 matches live).

But the NRL, ARLC and NZRL see it as logistically impossible, with quarantine requirements at both ends, at the end of a difficult year for NRL players. They have been pushing for a postponement for some time and the recent relocation of the NRL to Australia was the last straw.

“The safety and well-being of our employees is the top priority, and unfortunately this cannot be guaranteed to our satisfaction,” said Greg Peters, CEO of NZRL.

“There are stark differences between the way the pandemic is handled in the UK compared to Australasia and recent developments have highlighted how quickly things can change.

“Tournament organizers have moved heaven and earth to make it work, so it’s not an easy decision, but the UK Covid-19 situation shows no signs of improving, and it’s just too much dangerous to send teams and personnel.

“We understand how disappointing this is for fans and those involved, but the safety of players and staff remains paramount.”

ARLC President Peter V’landys agreed that the well-being and safety of players must come first.

“Not taking part in this year’s World Cup is not a decision the Commission has taken lightly, but we must put the best interests of our players and officials first. Protecting them is our top priority”, did he declare.

“The risks to the safety, health and well-being of players and officials traveling from Australia to participate in the tournament this year are insurmountable. The majority of NRL players currently live away from home under protocols They would then be required to stay on protocol and away from home for the duration of the tournament before being re-quarantined on their return to Australia.That’s too much to ask our players and officials to do.

“We have again asked the IRL and the Rugby World Cup to consider postponing the event until 2022 to allow all players to participate.”

Fourteen teams remain in the men’s event, including six in the women’s tournament.

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