New Zealand and Australia have pulled out of the 2021 Rugby World Cup set to be held in England. The two countries offered the board only four minutes notice before they opted out of the tournament, citing mismanagement of the pandemic by the UK government as the reason behind their decision.
Among the concerns for the Australian and New Zealand boards were the 14-day quarantine periods which would cause the players to miss preseason in the domestic league.
The chairman of the Rugby Football League, Simon Johnson has not held back when criticising the two countries for their decision. Among the phrased he used to describe the countries were ‘selfish, cowardly and parochial’.
‘This selfish, parochial and cowardly decision is one that need not have been taken because the Rugby League World Cup organisers have bent over backwards to offer every assurance to the Australians and Kiwis,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Troy Grant, chair of the International Rugby League, the World Cup’s main organiser, also blasted the move in a similarly strong-worded intervention.
‘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?’ he said. ‘Sadly, players are telling me they haven’t had the opportunity to make that decision for themselves.’
The future of the tournament has now been thrown into doubt. Australia have won the tournament a record 11 times, while New Zealand won the tournament in 2008. Whether or not the Football League will go ahead with the tournament in October remains to be seen.