Major feud brewing as doubt hangs over World Cup

Organisers of the Rugby League World Cup confirmed the tournament will go ahead in England despite concerns in Australia about sending a Kangaroos team abroad to compete.

The men’s, women’s and wheelchair World Cups will be played alongside each other across England in October and November this year. To ensure the men’s tournament goes ahead, World Cup organisers are considering chartering planes and alternative quarantine facility for athletes based in Australia upon their return home.

The staging of the tournament has been a source of contention within NRL circles with players concerned about the the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the shortage of vaccines in Australia.

Twelve NRL clubs set off for Queensland

The NRL this week moved the entire competition to Queensland to keep it virus free, with players forced to leave their families to complete the 2021 season. Players from the Storm and Warriors have already been forced to be away from their families for months on end.

Former Great Britain and Ireland international Barrie McDermott, hailed the decision to go ahead with the tournament, even though there has been some push back from Australia, with the Kangaroos yet to sign a partition agreement confirming they will send their players to the World Cup.

“Let’s just get on with it, there are compromises all over the world,” McDermott said. “I’m sick of being told what to do by people in the NRL and the southern hemisphere.

“We should all be working together for the good of the game and the good of the game requires that we get this World Cup on and as successful as possible.”

The two-week quarantine period to be served when the Australian players return home is a significant point of contention. The players want clarity on whether the quarantine time is counted as two weeks of their annual leave, or if the NRL clubs will have to accept the fortnight in quarantine is on their time.

If it’s agreed that players will be allowed their six weeks annual leave after doing two weeks quarantine, then that could mean a shortened pre-season with the 2022 NRL campaign due to get underway in the middle of March.

McDermott declared if some Australian players don’t want to participate, then there is already plenty of Australian talent playing in England that wouldn’t let anyone down.

“If the Australian players choose to decline their invitation to the tournament and we can reach an agreement that Australian players in this country like Matt Parcell, Matt Prior, James Maloney – to name a few – want to play you could get a really strong side,” McDermott said.

“We have an international federation for a reason, and it represents everybody – not just the Australians. I have no doubt that some of the players would walk on broken glass to play in a World Cup.

“As for coach Mal Meninga, a more passionate Kangaroo you could not come across. I cannot imagine for one minute that he does not want his players to experience that.”

Jon Dutton, chief executive of RLWC 2021, said officials have plans in place should Australia not sign the agreement but is confident Aussie players will compete.

“It’s no secret, there’s been a lot of speculation about the ARLC’s participation, but we are very confident that Australia will participate,” he said on Thursday.

“We are very confident that they will join the other 20 competing nations.

“We acknowledge there are challenges ahead, I have been speaking to Andrew Abdo, the chief executive of the NRL on a regular basis, we have met with Peter V’landys, we have been meeting with the commissioners of the ARLC.

“What we have to recognise is the relocation of the NRL competition to Queensland, the relocation of two of the three Origin games has presented a number of challenges domestically for them to contend with.”

The World Cup is a million miles away from NRL players’ minds, according to league great Phil Gould.

The former coach has called on organisers to relocate, or delay the event due to difficulties being experienced by the NRL.

“Players will make decisions at appropriate time when given all facts,” he wrote on Twitter. “Aust also currently 10% vaccinations. Big issue. RLWC UK is not priority for anyone here at moment. UK bleating won’t change that fact. It will be dealt with in due course.”

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