Rugby World Cup organisers pondering next step after double withdrawal
Organisers of the 2021 World Cup are continuing to weigh up their next move amid the fall-out from the decision of Australia and New Zealand to pull out of the tournament.
An emergency board meeting was convened following the sudden announcement last Thursday and members agreed to reconvene in the middle of this week to formulate their next step.
There appears to be little appetite for a postponement, as requested by Australia and New Zealand who insist they took their decision based on the safety of players in light of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK.
A statement read: “The Rugby League World Cup 2021 have held an emergency Board meeting following the hugely disappointing statement made by ARLC and NZRL.
“The Board conducted constructive discussions on the best way forward for the tournament and will continue dialogue with all stakeholders, including the UK Government, in the coming days.
“The well-being of all those involved in the tournament, particularly players and team officials, have been the priority for the organisers.
“The Board reiterated the relentless hard work and extraordinary measures that have been taken to create a world class environment in line with other major sports event that have been successfully hosted in UK this year.
“The Board will meet again in the coming days but in the meantime will continue to concentrate its efforts on being solutions focused and achieving the best possible outcome for the tournament.”
The PA news agency understands the Government remains committed to the staging of the tournament this autumn and a member of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) sits on the World Cup board.
Officials are looking seriously at the idea of replacing the big two, with either nations that lost out in qualifying such as the United States, Spain and Serbia or teams representing the Indigenous and Maori population.
International Rugby League chair Troy Grant says he is aware of a host of Australian players, angered that they were not consulted by the withdrawal decision, who are keen to take part in the tournament by switching their allegiance to other countries.
England are due to begin the tournament against Samoa at Newcastle’s St James’ Park on October 23.