Rugby League World Cup 2021: Organisers optimistic for scheduled start

By Dave WoodsBBC rugby league correspondent
Australia celebrate their 2017 World Cup win
Australia were one of three nations to host the 2017 event, and won the tournament after beating England 6-0 in the final in Brisbane

Organisers of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup remain optimistic about the tournament being staged this year.

The Women's Rugby World Cup in rugby union, due to be held in New Zealand in September and October, now looks set to be postponed until 2022.

But rugby league's global tournament - featuring the men's, women's and wheelchair events - is still on course to go ahead as planned in England.

The men's event is due to take place between 23 October and 27 November.

The Rugby League World Cup 2021 (RLWC2021) chief executive Jon Dutton says there are still challenges ahead, but he is confident that the three tournaments - featuring 21 different nations - can take place, despite rugby union's governing body World Rugby's recommendation to put off its event.

"World Rugby have obviously made a very early decision. We've maintained that nothing has changed - we've still got time on our side," said Dutton.

"Some of the reasons that World Rugby have cited are different considerations than what's in our minds at the moment.

"If you look at the UK and the prime minister's announcement that was made last Monday, there is a clear road map and it is also increasingly clear from the public health figures that the situation is improving quite quickly."

It is understood that officials within Australia's National Rugby League, which represents the major clubs in that country, are concerned about the safety of players travelling around the world to play in the three tournaments, and then having to face possible quarantine restrictions on their return.

But Dutton says he and his colleagues are working with all parties to address those concerns.

He said: "They've clearly raised the stark challenges of the quarantine and international travel.

"We are very well aware of that and that's why we continue to work together, sharing that intelligence and making sure of [the health and safety of] the athletes who play not just for Australia and New Zealand in any of the three tournaments, but the athletes who will populate all the competing nations.

"We've certainly got some challenges and we're certainly not going to shy away from those.

"We're living through exceptional circumstances but in a very fluid environment where things are literally changing by the day."

International Rugby League (IRL), the sport's governing body, has given its backing to the event being staged in England this year as planned.

It said: "The board of the International Rugby League met on Thursday, 25 February and unanimously reiterated that the priority focus is the successful delivery of RLWC2021 in October and November 2021 in England.

"The board will continue to support RLWC2021's substantial work with all the participating nations to ensure that every possible action is taken to deliver the biggest and best ever Rugby League World Cup schedule."

The women's tournament is scheduled to start on 9 November, with the final on 27 November, and the wheelchair event is due to run from 11 November to 26 November.

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