Australia and New Zealand withdrew from this year’s Rugby Union World Cup in England, insisting it is “just too dangerous” to travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Australian holders, who have won the tournament 11 times, and 2008 champions New Zealand, were due to arrive in the UK this fall to participate in the tournament, which is scheduled to start on 23 October.
However, with COVID-19 infection rates in the host country continuing to rise, the two southern hemisphere powers have decided not to travel and maintained that the competition should be postponed until 2022.
A joint statement from the two nations said: “The Australian Rugby Union Commission (ARLC) and the New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) today informed the organizers of the International Rugby League (IRL) and the Rugby Union World Cup (RLWC) that Australia and New Zealand do not participate in a 2021 World Cup due to player welfare and safety concerns.
“ARLC and NZRL have again requested that RLWC2021 be postponed to 2022 to minimize the risk of players contracting COVID-19 and ensure the best outcome for the well-being of players.
“The ARLC and NZRL have resolved that in the current environment the risks for athletes and officials traveling to the UK to participate in the tournament this year are too great, and it is unable to approve participation from Australia and New Zealand to the RLWC in 2021.. “
NZRL chief executive Greg Peters cited “stark differences” between the handling of the pandemic in the UK and Australasia and insisted it was “just too dangerous” for the teams. participate in the tournament.
He said: “The safety and well-being of our people is the top priority, and unfortunately this cannot be guaranteed to our satisfaction.
“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.
“The tournament organizers have moved Heaven and Earth to make it work, so it’s not an easy decision, but the COVID-19 situation in the UK shows no signs of improving, and it’s just too much. dangerous to send teams and personnel.
“We understand how disappointing it is for the fans and those involved; However, the safety of players and staff remains paramount.
ARLC President Peter V’landys AM reiterated the concerns of his New Zealand counterpart and called again for the tournament to be rescheduled for next year.
“In the current environment, 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,” he said.
“The majority of NRL players currently live far from home under difficult biosecurity protocols.
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“They would then be required to remain under protocols and away from home for the duration of the tournament before being quarantined again upon their return to Australia.” It’s too much to ask of our players and officials.
“We have again asked the IRL and the Rugby Union World Cup to consider postponing the event until 2022 to allow all players to participate.”