2021 World Cup officially postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic

Australia and New Zealand are set to be invited to take their places in the World Cup at the end of the 2022 season after tournament organisers agreed to postpone it for 12 months.

The World Cup board met on Wednesday night and reluctantly decided postponement was the best option after the ARLC and NZRL withdrew the Kangaroos, Jillaroos, Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns due to concerns over the safety of players travelling to England this year.

NRL clubs backed the decision of the ARLC and called for the tournament to be postponed to ensure the top players were on display at the World Cup, which was set to be the most ambitious in the code’s history.

The UK Government will continue to back the tournament in 2022 but new dates will need to be found and organisers are likely to want to avoid a clash with the FIFA World Cup in Qatar from November 21 to December 18 next year.

Venues will also need to be rebooked and broadcasting arrangements for the 61 matches across the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments may need to be renegotiated.

However, the decision gives World Cup organisers time to alleviate the concerns about NRL players being exposed to COVID-19 in England and quarantine arrangements for their return to Australia and New Zealand.

South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett, who had charge of England at the 2017 World Cup, supported the postponement after previously suggesting the tournament could go ahead without Australia and New Zealand.

"If it is next year and they all buy into it I am happy for that," Bennett said.

"I think we have seen how great the Olympics have been and it was put back nine months so we all know we can do that if that is what we are going to do.

"The important thing is that they play the World Cup. Whether they actually play in 2021 or 2022, I am flexible on that personally, but I would like to see the World Cup played.

"There was great commitment there to think what they have done in Japan, with the way they have presented the Olympic Games to everybody and the athletes’ commitment to it all as well. It has been wonderful."


Story first published on NRL.com by Brad Walter, NRL.com Repoter

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Brad Walter, NRL.com