Thursday, January 27

Australia and New Zealand Withdraw from Rugby League World Cup in England Over Covid Concerns | Rugby league


Champions Australia and New Zealand have withdrawn from the Rugby League World Cup to be held later this year in England, citing concerns for the well-being and safety of the players.

In a joint statement Thursday afternoon, the Australian Rugby League Commission and the NZRL urged postponing the tournament until 2022 to avoid the risk of a player catching Covid-19.

The extraordinary move comes just a week after tournament officials confirmed the event would take place with or without defending champions Australia. Australia has won eight of the last nine World Cups, with the exception of New Zealand’s victory in 2008.

However, the organizers were confident that they could assure the ARLC that it would sign the participation agreement enforcing strict bubble conditions for participating athletes.

But even that failed to persuade the ARLC and NZRL that the risk is worth it, saying that in today’s UK environment the risk is too great for athletes and officials.

Prolonged time away from home, including quarantine periods, was also cited as a reason for abstinence.

The timing of the tournament was also a concern for NRL clubs with players who would then be quarantined for two weeks upon arrival in Australia after the November 27 final.

The players would then be entitled to annual leave under their NRL contracts, which would mean that they would not return to preseason training until the end of January.

“Not taking part in this year’s World Cup is not a decision made lightly by the commission, but we must put the best interests of our players and officials first. Protecting them is our top priority, ”said ARLC President Peter V’landys.

“In today’s environment, the risks to the safety, health and well-being of players and officials traveling from Australia to participate in this year’s tournament are insurmountable.

“Most of the NRL players currently live away from home under difficult biosafety protocols.

“They would then be required to remain under protocols and away from home during the tournament before being quarantined again upon returning to Australia. It is too much to ask of our players and officials.

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

Earlier this week, the UK lifted most of the Covid-19 restrictions, while the number of cases continues to rise both there and in Australia.

“There are stark differences in how the pandemic is handled in the UK compared to Australasia and recent developments have highlighted how quickly things can change,” said NZRL CEO Greg Peters.

“The tournament organizers have moved heaven and earth to make this work, so it is not an easy decision, but the Covid-19 situation in the UK shows no signs of improving, and it is simply too unsafe to send equipment and staff. .

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


www.theguardian.com

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