The Australian Rugby League and New Zealand Rugby League have announced they will not be sending any teams over to the World Cup later this year.
The joint statement cites “the risk of COVID-19 infection in the United Kingdom, the worsening environment in Australia and the time a majority of NRL players will spend away from home under strict biosecurity conditions prior to the World Cup.”
They have also requested that the 2021 World Cup be postponed until 2022 to minimise the risk of players catching Covid-19 and ensuring the best outcome for player wellbeing.
ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys said: “Not participating in this year’s World Cup is not a decision the Commission has taken lightly, but we must put the best interests of our players and officials first. Protecting them is our absolute priority.
“In the current environment, the risks to the safety, health and wellbeing of the players and officials travelling from Australia to participate in the tournament this year are insurmountable.
“The majority of NRL players are currently living away from home under difficult biosecurity protocols. They would then be required to remain under protocols and away from home for the duration of the tournament before again quarantining on return to Australia. This is too much to ask our players and officials to do.”
NZRL CEO Greg Peters added: “The safety and wellbeing of our people is the main priority, and unfortunately, that cannot be guaranteed to our satisfaction.
“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.
“The tournament organisers 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 sign of improving, and it’s simply too unsafe to send teams and staff over.”