Huddersfield Giants hero Jermaine McGillvary calls for World Cup U-turn from Australia and New Zealand

ENGLAND winger Jermaine McGillvary has urged Australia and New Zealand players to fight for their right to play in the World Cup insisting their withdrawal is “nothing to do with Covid.”

Star: Huddersfield's Jermaine McGillvary powers through to score his fourth try. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

As the fall-out continues over the decision of the top two nations not to send teams to the tournament here in the autumn, the Huddersfield Giants star hopes a solution can still be found.

World Cup organisers and the International Rugby League are expected to decide next week whether it can still go ahead after Thursday’s bombshell withdrawal by Australia and New Zealand

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They cited concerns over rising Covid cases in the UK and the safety of their NRL players who would also need to enter 14 days isolation upon their return.

Applause: Huddersfield's Jermaine McGillvary thanks the fans for their support after his side defeat Hull FC.

But McGillvary – who played when England lost 6-0 against Australia in the 2017 World Cup final in Brisbane – told The Yorkshire Post: “The NRL are doing it for themselves really to have the players back fit for pre-season.

“I don’t think it’s anything to do with Covid.

“I’ve heard the World Cup organisers have set up so many things and bent over backwards to keep everyone in bubbles and safe from Covid.

“Obviously, it’s not 100 per cent bullet-proof but they’ve done their best. For the NRL, it’s not about keeping the players safe; it’s for their own season.

If the shirt fits: Jermaine McGilvary in Englabnd colours.

“But you might have to make sacrifices. Maybe start the NRL season a little bit later? Hopefully the players come up trumps and we can get this on.”

Organisers still hope Australia and New Zealand will reverse their decision but that is unlikely.

A number of their internationals in the NRL had, though, expressed a desire to play in the World Cup and the Rugby League Players’ Association chief executive officer Clint Newton is looking to facilitate that.

“We have had feedback from a number of players eligible for these Nations stating their intentions to compete in the tournament, pending more information becoming available in the coming weeks,” said Australian Newton, the former Hull KR second-row.

“Clearly, the views of those players have not been enough to prevent this decision (to withdraw) and we believe it has been made prematurely.”

McGillvary proved a star of the last World Cup, scoring seven tries in just five games and running more metres than any other player.

He hopes to be part of Shaun Wane’s plans in the autumn and did his chances no harm with four tries in Huddersfield’s 40-26 win over Hull FC on Thursday night.

But McGillvary conceded: “It’s sh*t that they have pulled out at this moment in time.

“I don’t think you can have a World Cup without them: Australia are the best in the world. They are the pinnacle.

“To have a World Cup without them and you go on and win it, you would never have the same feeling.

“I reckon they will change their mind eventually. And I hope they do for the good of the game.

“We’re probably the only sport with an international game that is really poor but it is an awesome game. I think we need to build on that and we need Australia and New Zealand as they are first and second in the world rankings. We need them.”

Meanwhile, Huddersfield coach Ian Watson revealed how the winger had almost pulled out of Thursday’s game before helping his hometown club to their first win in seven fixtures.

McGillvary explained: “I’d had a foot injury all week and I aggravated it again in warm-up.

“I just said to Watto I couldn’t let the young boys down by pulling out at the last minute.

“They’ve been doing it tough and it’d have just looked bad me pulling out. I thought I’d just have a go and see how I go, even if I had to come off and Sam Wood had to come on. I’d rather do that than just drop out and not try.”

He struggled early on with Hull scoring twice after he was out-jumped but was switched to the left flank instead and went on to play a major role.

“It was a masterstroke by Watto,” said McGillvary.

“(Mahe) Fonua got me with a big hit early on in the game and I was struggling a little bit.

“But he moved me to the other side and I was a lot better.

“It wasn’t a particularly good performance by me but the forwards were awesome.

“I got Sky’s man of the match but I gave it to (prop) Luke Yates. I thought he was sensational.

“He didn’t want it but I said he’d have offended me if he didn’t take it so he took it. He was awesome.”