22 Jul 2021

Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns pull out of World Cup

7:17 pm on 22 July 2021

New Zealand Rugby League and the Australian Rugby League Commission have withdrawn their teams from this year's World Cup in England.

Rugby League World Cup 2021's Jon Dutton with Prime Minister Boris Johnson & The Paul Barriere Rugby League World Cup Trophy outside Downing St on 16/7/21.

Rugby League World Cup 2021's Jon Dutton with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Rugby League World Cup outside 10 Downing St earlier this month. Photo: SWpix.com

The NZRL and ARLC have informed organisers that Australia and New Zealand will not compete at the tournament because of player welfare and safety concerns.

Both parties have requested the World Cup be postponed until next year to minimise risk of players contracting Covid-19 and ensure the best outcome for player wellbeing.

They have made the decision to withdraw after considering 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.

The NZRL and ARLC have resolved, that in the present environment the risks to athletes and officials travelling to the UK to participate in the tournament this year are too great.

NZRL CEO Greg Peters said the decision to withdraw was in the best interests of players and officials.

"The safety and wellbeing of our people is the main priority, and unfortunately, that cannot be guaranteed to our satisfaction," he 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.

The Rugby League World Cup Trophy pictured outside Old Trafford Manchester the home of Manchester United Football Club. The Theatre of Dreams will host the final of the Rugby League World Cup in 2021

The 2021 Rugby League World Cup final is scheduled to be played at Old Trafford. Photo: SWPix

"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.

"We understand how disappointing this is for fans and those involved; however player and staff safety remains paramount."

ARLC Chairman Peter V'landys said player wellbeing and safety must come first.

"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,'' he said.

"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.

"We have again requested the IRL and Rugby League World Cup consider postponing the event until 2022 to enable all players to participate."