Rugby League World Cup: 2021 tournament postponed until 2022
Australia and New Zealand had withdrawn from the 2021 World Cup citing safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic; Tournament had been scheduled to take place in England from October 23 to November 27
By PA Media
Last Updated: 05/08/21 12:04pm
The 2021 Rugby League World Cup will be postponed until 2022 after embattled officials finally conceded defeat in their bid to stage the tournament in England as planned in the autumn.
The news had been anticipated since Australia and New Zealand pulled out of the tournament a fortnight ago, citing safety fears amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Organisers initially vowed to press ahead with the tournament - due to run from October 23 to November 27 - without two of the big three, but were forced to acknowledge defeat as all 16 NRL clubs backed the boycott.
Tournament chief executive Jon Dutton said: "Ultimately, time and competing priorities from others forced us to make the most difficult decision in our six-year history.
"However, we and the sport of Rugby League are resilient, and next year we will deliver our vision of the biggest and best Rugby League World Cup ever. "
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said: "I am disappointed that we've needed to take the decision to delay the Rugby League World Cup.
"Despite working tirelessly to explore solutions that would allow us to go ahead as planned, circumstances beyond our control have meant that postponing the Rugby League World Cup until next year is the strongest option for staging a successful tournament.
"In the best interests of the sport and its millions of supporters around the world, I look forward to the Rugby League authorities in all competing nations accommodating a rearranged tournament in 2022, so we can put on the spectacle the fans deserve."
The tournament was due to kick off in Newcastle on October 23 and Dutton insisted the vast majority of players remained keen to take part.
"We have always prioritised player voice and player choice," he said. "We have established a player working group, met with senior players and in the last few days commissioned a player survey to domestic players in Australia and New Zealand that showed more than 85 per cent wanted to compete at RLWC2021 this year.
"However, following the disappointing decision of the ARLC and NZRL to withdraw and the subsequent impact on player availability for other competing nations, it is apparent that delivering the tournament this year would not be feasible."
Reacting to the decision, Scotland Rugby League said on Twitter: "We are disappointed in the decision to postpone the World Cup, but would like to thank the Rugby League World Cup for their efforts to make the tournament happen.
"We were excited to take on the world's best, but we'll be back next year."