Rugby League World Cup chiefs hope Australia feature amid Covid fears

Rugby League World Cup chiefs hope Australia feature amid Covid fears

LONDON: Rugby League World Cup organisers are trying to persuade NRL clubs and players to commit to the tournament amid fears over another surge of coronavirus cases in Britain.

Officials are ready to confirm this week that the tournament will go ahead as planned later this year

However, several NRL clubs have concerns over the players’ health as the Covid-19 spike continues on the eve of the July 19 removal of virus restrictions in the UK.

Half the 16 nations will be travelling from the southern hemisphere, most of them belonging to NRL clubs, leaving them facing the prospect of having to go into quarantine on their return home at the end of November.

Lobbying to the NRL has included a video message in which World Cup chief executive Jon Dutton said: “I do fully understand the current challenges you face.

“The pandemic has brought nothing but challenges for us all to navigate.

“We will stage the tournament this year as planned. It is imperative that we provide the safety possible environment for players and staff.

“We fully appreciate and respect it will be the players’ choice if they get on the plane and come to England. We have undertaken to provide a number of bio-security measures.

“The mandatory 14-day quarantine return home to Australia is the hardest challenge of all.”

It is thought World Cup organisers have agreed to foot the bill for charter flights to bring an estimated 400 players and officials from Australia.

Teams will be able to name expanded squads with provisions to draft in players for late withdrawals.

Australia Rugby League chairman Peter V’landys has confirmed the commission has yet to give the go-ahead for Australia to compete.

World Cup officials have pointed to the recent success of Euro 2020 and Wimbledon as evidence that England can host global tournaments safely. -AFP