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July 22, 2021 8 min
There will not be a New Zealand presence at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.
The New Zealand Rugby League informed tournament organisers on Thursday that the Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns would not be attending the event in England.
It's not a unilateral action, with the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) also confirming that they would not be sending teams to the tournament, which is due to kick off in October.
In the joint statement, the NZRL and ARLC said the decision to withdraw comes after considering the risk of Covid-19 infection in the United Kingdom, the worsening environment in Australia and the time a majority of NRL Premiership players will spend away from home under strict biosecurity conditions prior to the World Cup.
They 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 and both bodies are calling for the event to be postponed until 2022.
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 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 echoed that statement.
"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."
Text by Michael Burgess, NZ Herald
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