July 22, 2021
World Champions Australia and powerhouse New Zealand have officially withdrawn their teams from this year’s Rugby League World Cup in the United Kingdom.
A joint statement released this evening by the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) said they had informed the International Rugby League (IRL) and Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) organisers neither will compete in a 2021 World Cup because of player welfare and safety concerns.
“The safety and wellbeing of our people is the main priority, and unfortunately, that cannot be guaranteed to our satisfaction,” NZRL chief executive Greg Peters said.
“There are stark differences between how the pandemic is being managed in the UK compared to Australasia and recent developments have highlighted how quickly things can change.”
Organisers said earlier this month that the tournament will go ahead as planned in October despite COVID-19 still posing an issue in the UK.
Combined, 61 matches were expected at the World Cup prior to tonight's announcement.
However, ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys insisted player wellbeing and safety must come first.
This year's tournament is scheduled to kick off on 23 October where England will face Samoa in the first game.
The final is scheduled to be played on 27 November.
By Romeka Romena