Down Under wants rugby showcase postponed


Rugby League World Cup with green light but a lot of questions Image: Rugby League World Cup

Leading clubs of Australia believe this year’s Rugby League World Cup should be postponed for 12 months as COVID-19’s Delta variant has ‘exploded’ in the United Kingdom, according to one National Rugby League (NRL) Chief Executive. It is a different matter that the tournament is set to be given the green light to go ahead.

‘The Guardian’ stated that World Cup organizers are expected to confirm they intend to proceed with the event this autumn following talks with various governing bodies over participation. The World Cup is due to start on October 23rd when England face Samoa (country in Oceania which is a geographic region that includes Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia) at St James’ Park (UK).

The Rugby League World Cup is an international rugby league tournament contested by the top men’s national teams. The tournament is administered by the International Rugby League and was first held in France in 1954, which was the first World Cup held for any form of rugby football.

The 2021 Rugby League World Cup will be the 16th staging of the Rugby League World Cup and will be held in England between October 23rd, 2021 and November 27th, 2021. The tournament will include 16 teams, an increase of two from the last two tournaments.

Sydney (Australia)-headquartered the National Rugby League (NRL) is Australia’s top-level domestic men’s rugby league club competition. It contains clubs from the original Sydney club Rugby League competition, which had been running continuously since 1908. A single team from New Zealand also plays in the league.

St James’ Park is a football stadium in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. It is the home of Premier League club Newcastle United F.C. With a seating capacity of 52,305 seats, it is the eighth largest football stadium in England.

‘The Guardian’ further stated that NRL clubs still have significant concerns regarding the logistics of flying more than 400 players, staff and officials in and out of the United Kingdom for the tournament. Australian border rules dictate anyone returning to the country must spend 14 days in Government-managed quarantine, but the NRL clubs believe that would mean after a mandatory off-season rest period, some of the game’s leading players would not return to their clubs until two weeks before the 2022 trial games begin, something they are not keen to entertain. That could see Australia sending a weaker side to defend the title they won in 2017.

World Cup officials have agreed to pick up the tab for charter flights for all those traveling to minimize the risk of contact with the general public, but the South Sydney Chief Executive and former Super League CEO, Blake Solly, stated that the preferred option among Australia’s elite clubs remains to push the event back one year.

Stated Solly, “There is a great amount of respect for Jon (Dutton, World Cup Chief Executive) and his team. But the NRL clubs have a range of concerns – from travel to and from the UK, the arrangements and protocols for players in the UK, quarantine upon their return, and when the players return to training. The collective view when we discussed the tournament a few weeks ago was that it needed to be postponed until 2022.”

Despite the resistance, speculations are rife that the tournament will go ahead regardless as moving it to 2022 would result in a direct clash with the FIFA World Cup™ in Qatar. The sport is also keen to capitalize on the momentum generated by events such as Wimbledon and Euro 2020 this summer, with the prospect of capacity crowds at England’s World Cup games.

Solly, however, has a different view, “Surely a greater priority for international rugby league at the end of this season is to play some matches in New Zealand. There has not been an elite game of rugby league played there for almost two years. It is safer and more practical than the World Cup in Europe and rewards the loyalty of New Zealand rugby league supporters through an incredible period. The World Cup should take place in the UK in 2022.”

However, the World Cup officials have refused to comment on the entire issue.

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