The prospect that some of Australia’s and New Zealand’s best players will switch allegiance to play for other nations if this year’s World Cup goes ahead is “highly likely” according to the executive director of Australia’s players’ union.
The Australian Rugby League Commission and the New Zealand Rugby League insist they will not send teams to compete in the tournament in England later this year due to concerns about player welfare regarding Covid-19, and the organizers of the World Cup will spend the weekend in dialogue with government officials. trying to determine whether or not to continue without them, or whether to postpone the event for 12 months.
Clint Newton, director of the Rugby League Players Association, said he is disappointed that players were not consulted on the decision. However, he revealed that some stars who would likely play for Australia or New Zealand this year could still participate in the tournament, but for a completely different nation.
Under the guidelines of the international rugby league, players can switch between tier one and tier two nations, opening the door for established internationals from Australia and New Zealand such as James Tedesco to play for Italy, David Fifita to shift to Tonga and Josh Papalii to represent Samoa. There are also dozens of others that could strengthen countries like Lebanon, Fiji, and fledgling Greece.
“That is very likely to happen,” Newton told The Guardian. “That may be the decision some of our players choose to make pending further information and understanding of what the situation is in the UK. But it will be up to dual eligible individuals to make that decision. We will work with the players if that is what they want to do, and we will continue to work with the Rugby League World Cup team in the future.
Newton said that while some players may decide not to travel to the tournament due to the Covid-19 situation in the UK, the state of mind for many is that they still want to participate despite ARLC and NZRL’s decision to backing out.
“At the end of the day, some players will definitely choose to stay at home, but that happens all the time with international tours, especially during that period of time,” he said. “This one has many layers of complexity, but yes, there are players eager to continue taking the steps forward and learn more about the situation in England and everything related to the process.
“There is no doubt that there is a real disappointment for several players who were hoping to represent their nations in the tournament. As we have said, we have received comments from several players who expressed their intention to compete in the tournament, waiting for more information in the coming weeks about the health and safety protocols that they must comply with or manage when they do. You are in the UK. We remain committed to discussions in this regard. “
Newton also said that despite the ARLC and NZRL decision, the RLPA intends to continue discussing with the World Cup organizers about the availability of their players if the tournament continues without the Kangaroos and Kiwis. “We have had productive discussions for the past three years,” Newton said.
“They have always held the position that they will not force players to participate, and our next steps are to continue engaging with all competing nations.
“We remain committed to working on that with the World Cup team, who have been working on a series of protocols for an extended period.”
Both nations have raised concerns for the safety of their players at a time when Covid rates are high in the UK. However, The Guardian has seen the documentation sent by the World Cup organizers to all competing nations and the organizers have spent millions on securing biosecure bubbles and chartered flights for all players and traveling staff, as well as promising to implement the safest possible environment for everyone involved. .
Each nation will also have exclusive access to the gym and pool at all host venues to minimize contact with the public, and each participating side will have a dedicated Covid-19 compliance officer.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism