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The International Rugby League chairman Tony Grant has issued a statement in response to the news that Australia and New Zealand have pulled out of the upcoming Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) tournaments.
The two teams, one the holders and another the number one-ranked side in the world, have cited player welfare and safety concerns as reasons for their announcement.
The rise in cases in RLWC host nation England is what has led to this decision.
The RLWC is scheduled to kick off on October 23 with the final to be played on November 27 – both teams were strong favourites to reach it.
The ARLC and NZRL have requested that the competition be postponed until 2022 to minimise the risk of participating players contracting Covid-19.
International Rugby League chairman Troy Grant issued a statement later on Thursday.
“I appreciate Peter calling me to explain the rationale behind the ARLC’s decision and, whilst I can appreciate the ARLC’s intent to ensure player safety and welfare, I find it difficult to find the words that adequately describe my disappointment with that decision,” Grant said.
“Every sporting organisation, every industry, government and family globally have been impacted by this pandemic.
“I have been in regular communication with the RLPA and a number of international players and coaches who have been satisfied with the world cup’s biosecurity arrangements and expressed a clear determination to travel to England and proudly represent their nations. They have expressed to me that they feel their own personal choice to participate or not in the world cup has been taken from them.
“The obvious question being asked of us is why rugby league players are not able to make the same sacrifices as players from other sports? Sadly, players are telling me they haven’t had the opportunity to make that decision for themselves.”
There are 14 teams left in the competition after the announcement, including Ireland and host nation England.