Rugby League World Cup to go ahead as planned in England this autumn
This year’s Rugby League World Cup will go ahead as planned this autumn, with organisers expected to confirm this week that they have emerged through frantic last-minute discussions with competing nations to ensure the tournament is not postponed.
With fears surrounding rising Covid-19 cases in England and the need for players to quarantine upon their return home after the tournament, several Australian clubs were hesitant over releasing their players for the event. With a large portion of the players involved coming from the NRL and the wider southern hemisphere, there were fears the World Cup may have needed to be pushed back 12 months.
However, New Zealand and Australia’s governing bodies are now believed to have struck a deal with World Cup organisers which will see the latter cover the costs and logistics surrounding the transport of the players on private charter flights halfway across the world, minimising their contact with the general public in the process. That means the tournament can proceed as planned, with organisers expected to confirm the decision as early as Wednesday.
The news is a major boost for rugby league in the United Kingdom. The tournament had already received around £25m of financial backing from the government, and organisers had secured lucrative broadcast and sponsorship packages for the event, which will start in Newcastle on 23 October, when hosts England face Samoa at St James’ Park.
Pushing the event back to next autumn would have meant a potential clash with the football World Cup in Qatar. However, rugby league can now capitalise on the feelgood factor generated by England at Euro 2020 in front of expected capacity crowds throughout the tournament.