The Rugby League World Cup has been postponed following the withdrawals of defending champions Australia and New Zealand.
The tournament, which was due to take place in the UK in October, had been hanging in the balance after the two southern hemisphere nations cited ‘player welfare and safety concerns’ over the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sportsmail revealed a week ago that there was a 50-50 chance of the World Cup going ahead as organisers scrambled frantically to address Australia and New Zealand’s concerns and implore them to attend the competition.
The Rugby League World cup has been postponed after Australia and New Zealand withdrew
Meetings with all the nations involved were to include detailed briefings about Covid protocols and quarantine measures to assure participants of their safety during the World Cup.
Players were then invited to take part in an anonymous survey on whether they wanted to go ahead with the tournament.
Confirmation of the postponement comes just days after all 16 National Rugby League clubs backed Australia and New Zealand’s decision not to travel for the tournament.
The extraordinary developments have been punctured by bitter feuding between the organisers and the southern hemisphere nations.
Simon Johnson, chairman of the Rugby Football League, expressed his anger at the decision taken by Australia and New Zealand to withdraw when it was first announced on 22 July.
‘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.
At the time, New Zealand Rugby League chief executive Greg Peters said: ‘The tournament organisers have moved heaven and earth to make this work, so it is not an easy decision, but the Covid-19 situation in the UK shows no sign of improving, and it’s simply too unsafe to send teams and staff over.’