While the Rugby League World Cup 2021 will go ahead in England later this year, a decision on whether or not the Australian Kangaroos will be participating is still yet to be made, per The Daily Telegraph.
— NRL on Nine (@NRLonNine) July 13, 2021
With the Australian team yet to sign its participation agreement, and the competition tipped to start in October, only three weeks after the NRL Grand Final, there's a possibility it could go ahead without the defending champions.
ARL Chairman Peter V'landys has indicated that the commission is holding off on making a decision until World Cup organisers meet the league's conditions.
“The fact is we certainly need the support of the players and support of the clubs,” V’landys said.
“We are not going to compromise one bit on the safety of our players. We want guarantees they will be safe and not stranded. We are waiting to see if they can meet the conditions. Once they have met their conditions we can speak to the clubs. They are trying very exceptionally hard. I take my hat off to them for that. They are very determined and that’s a good thing. We have to very careful.
“There is a major pandemic happening in NSW and will not compromise safety.”
Further to this, South Sydney Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly has said there's a series of issues and concerns clubs have that need to be remedied before any team can safely encourage their players to go.
“We are waiting for further information from the commission about a number of matters,” Solly said.
“These range from travel to and from the UK, the arrangements and protocols for players in the UK, quarantine upon return and the players’ return to training. But our collective view when we discussed the tournament a few weeks ago was that it needed to be postponed.
“We also have a number of concerns that have not been addressed. For example, Peter and the NRL management team have done a great job in helping to ensure the competition continues by moving all NSW/ACT based clubs to Queensland on the basis of between 80-100 cases a day in Sydney.
“There are 35,000 cases a day in the UK. It seems absurd to be doing what we are to keep the NRL competition safe and secure, but accepting that our players and staff travelling to the UK with those numbers is acceptable."
Solly has suggested that if the teams don't feel as though the health and safety measures tournament organisers have in place are safe enough, games could be played in New Zealand.
“There has not been an elite game of rugby league played there for almost two years. It is safer, rewards the loyalty of New Zealand Rugby League supporters through an incredible period and helps build on the recent television deal there,” Solly said.
While some clubs have lobbied for the tournament to be postponed 12 months or so given the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19, the recent announcement by the World Cup organisers to go ahead now puts all the onus on both them and the ARL commission to ensure conditions are safe enough for the Australian teams to participate.
The 2021 Rugby League World Cup will also mark the first time men's, women's and wheelchair competitions will be staged in a single, celebratory event.