Players from Australia and New Zealand may play for other countries during the Rugby League World Cup

The decision by Australia and New Zealand to withdraw three months before the start of the Rugby World Cup was taken ‘prematurely’, according to a players’ union.

The Rugby League Players’ Association has now added its voice to a hodgepodge of criticism of the decision, stressing that the players who want to play have not been listened to.

The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) announced yesterday that they would not participate in the showpiece in England in October due to concerns over Covid.

Reigning champions Australia (pictured) has won the competition eight times and NZ once

The English Rugby Football League immediately hit back, claiming the Aussies and Kiwis were “cowardly, parochial and selfish” and suggesting that the decision to withdraw had more to do with securing the National Rugby League season down under, than anything related to the virus.

In addition, it pointed to inconsistencies in Australian and New Zealand sports, pointing out that their athletes, footballers, cricketers and Rugby Union players play abroad, or because of, also in the UK.

Now the RLPA has said that some players in England wanted to play on the world stage, but their views were not taken into account by the Australian and Kiwi rugby authorities.

“The news that Australia and New Zealand will not participate in the 2021 World Cup is undoubtedly disappointing for players who hoped to represent their country in the tournament,” RLPA chief executive Clint Newton said in a statement.

Australia and New Zealand have said they will withdraw from the Rugby League World Cup

Australia and New Zealand have said they will withdraw from the Rugby League World Cup


The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and the New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) today issued a joint statement announcing their withdrawal from the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

“Not taking part in this year’s World Cup is not a decision the committee has taken lightly, but we must put the interests of our players and officials first. Protecting them is our absolute priority,” said ARLC chairman Peter V’landys.

“In the current environment, the risks to the safety, health and welfare of the players and officials coming from Australia this year to participate in the tournament are insurmountable.

“The majority of NRL players are currently living away from home under difficult biosecurity protocols. They would then have to remain under protocol and away from home for the duration of the tournament before being quarantined again on return to Australia.

“This is asking too much of our players and officials. We have again requested the IRL and Rugby League World Cup to consider postponing the event until 2022 to allow all players to participate.”

NZRL chief executive, Greg Peters, added: ‘There are big differences between the way the pandemic is being managed in the UK compared to Australasia and recent developments have shown how quickly things can change.

“The tournament organizers have moved heaven and earth to make this work so it’s not an easy decision but the Covid-19 situation in the UK is showing no signs of improving and it’s just too unsafe for teams and staff to be involved.” to steer.

“We understand how disappointing this is for fans and stakeholders, but the safety of players and staff remains paramount.”

A statement from the Rugby League World Cup read: ‘RLWC2021 be aware of the disappointing statement from the ARLC and NZRL which could have far-reaching implications for the international Rugby League.

“RLWC2021 was informed at very short notice and will continue discussions with all stakeholders to agree on the best way forward. A further statement will be made in due course.’

“We have received feedback from a number of players who qualify for these countries indicating that they intend to participate in the tournament, pending more information to be made available in the coming weeks.


Eligibility to represent a country is based on the player’s place of birth, the birthplace of a parent or grandparent, or residence for a period of five years,

A player who qualifies for countries other than Australia, England and New Zealand can only switch between those countries once in a four-year period.

Players who qualify for Australia, England and New Zealand plus any other country can make multiple substitutions, but they can only choose to represent one country per calendar year.

Players can only represent one of Australia, England or New Zealand in a career, even if they qualify for more than one of those countries. If they qualify, they can play for countries outside of those three.

Players cannot represent Australia or New Zealand if they have chosen to represent Great Britain and vice versa.

No player can play for more than one country in a recognized international competition.

“Obviously the opinion of those players has not been enough to prevent this decision and we believe it was made prematurely.”

Among those who have said they would love to play in recent weeks are James Tedesco, Damien Cook and Christian Welch.

And they may still get their wish, if not for Australia and New Zealand, then for other countries they qualify for, said Kangaroo coach Mal Meninga.

In rugby league, players can be selected for a country based on place of birth, parental or grandparent’s birthplace, or place of residence.

While players must choose between the tier 1 countries – Australia, England and New Zealand – they can qualify for the tier 2 and 3 countries, although they can only represent one country per calendar year.

Australia’s last international was a 16-12 defeat to Tonga in Aukland in November 2019.

According to the Australian Associated Press, nearly 350 Australian players and staff could travel to the tournament, including men, women and disabled athletes, if it goes ahead.

Several anticipated Australian picks could play out for other countries, including James Tedesco for Italy and David Fifita for Tonga, AAP said.

Jarome Luai, Junior Paulo, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Payne Haas, Brian To’o and Josh Papalii could all play for Samoa, while Daniel Safiti and Tariq Sims are both eligible for Fiji.

“That’s their decision and I would support that,” Meninga said.

“For example, if James chose to play for Italy because he can’t play for Australia, I wouldn’t stand in his way.

“I would support him under the circumstances. It comes down to whether they want to.’

Meninga’s stance was also supported by outgoing South Sydney coach and former England Kangaroos and mentor Wayne Bennett.

“It’s the rights of the players,” Bennett said.

‘The NRL and NZRL have made a decision, which is fine. But if a player wants to play for Samoa and Tonga, I don’t see why he couldn’t.

James German from Australia

Benji Marshall of the Kiwis

Australian rugby league star James Tedesco (left) and Kiwis Benji Marshall are among the players who will not participate in the tournament this year after their country’s sports authorities pull out, but Kangaroo’s coach Mal Meninga says he would support Tedesco to play for Italy

Kangaroo's coach Mal Meninga would support Australian players going to other countries

Kangaroo’s coach Mal Meninga would support Australian players going to other countries

“We’ve made so many exceptions to keep our competition going here.

“If England and other countries want to keep the World Cup alive, I don’t think it is our privilege to intervene.”

The Australian and New Zealand rugby authorities said they were withdrawing from the World Cup due to the risks posed by Covid and the well-being of players.

But World Cup organizers remain convinced that the NRL forced the decision to pull out despite extensive safety guarantees, including charter flights to bring players and officials from the southern hemisphere.

Sources told Sports post yesterday the governing bodies had ‘bowed’ under pressure.

Players returning from the World Cup would be quarantined for 14 days on arrival in Australia, meaning they would miss some of the pre-season preparation.

And the NRL has suffered a backlash from rugby league fans, who share their suspicions about what prompted the Aussies and Kiwis to pull out at such an early stage.

James Tedesco and Damien Cook play for New South Wales Blues, who won the Origin trophy but missed the tournament where they were supposed to star

James Tedesco and Damien Cook play for New South Wales Blues, who won the Origin trophy but missed the tournament where they were supposed to star

The NRL tweeted its support for plans to include rugby league in the 2032 Olympics, to be held in Brisbane, with a clapping emoji.

“The IRL has confirmed its ambitions to host rugby league at the 2032 Brisbane Olympics,” the NRL said. There was an immediate response.

“Are you going to withdraw from that too?” replied the rugby league podcast, Hold the Ball. “NRL think they are above rugby league and the most elite,” tweeted @PlaytheBallRLF.

“Better not, it could interrupt the preseason games,” Brad Boucher joked. “If they look hard enough, I’m sure the NRL can find a reason not to participate.”