The Rugby League World Cup 2021 (RLWC2021) board, which includes representatives from the UK government, yesterday bowed to the inevitable and announced the global showpiece will be postponed until 2022.
That had seemed the most likely option since last month when Australia and New Zealand both announced, with less than 100 days until the opening game, they would not be taking part, citing concerns over player safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
Both urged a postponement and of the prospect of carrying on without two of the sport’s powerhouses, RLWC2021 chief executive Jon Dutton admitted: “It wouldn’t have been a world-class tournament and it would have been irresponsible to carry on, so we look to 2022.”
The delayed event will retain the RLWC2021 branding, but dates and venues have yet to be revealed.
The FIFA World Cup will be staged in November, 2022 and Dutton confirmed: “We have some draft dates.
“We want to do some more consultation in the right way with Super League and the RFL.
“We are very conscious of the FIFA World Cup, which starts on Monday, November 21.
“We would not expect to go against that, for understandable reasons.”
In terms of venues, Dutton conceded: “There will be some disturbance, inevitably.
“If we look at the football calendar next year, there’s lots of change in preparation for the break for the FIFA World Cup.
“We’ve spoken to our 18 host towns and cities and expect all of those to stay with us. Game one will still be game one, game two will be game two; we might just see a change in some of the venues, but overall I think we will come out in a very similar place.”
The withdrawal of Australia and New Zealand from this year’s event has soured relationships with the rest of the rugby league world.
However, International Rugby League chairman Troy Grant is confident those differences will be settled before next year and participation agreements will be signed.
He said: “I have already spoken to representatives of both parties.
“They have assured me of their positivity and support and commitment to 2022.
“There is some relationship-building to be done, but I am confident we will have a magnificent World Cup next year.”