World Cup pushed to 2022

Sports

THIS year’s Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) has been postponed to 2022 in response to the withdrawal of Australia and New Zealand due to concerns over player safety due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19).
Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League (PNGRFL) chairman Sandis Tsaka told The National last night that it was a decision that had to be made, given the difficult situation with Covid-19 restrictions around the world.
“Whilst Australia and New Zealand had withdrawn earlier, the situation and concerns for many of the 23 participating countries in the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions were similar and would have impacted the World Cup in one way or another,” the Asia-Pacific Rugby League chairman and International Rugby League (IRL) director said.
“The seven nations from Asia-Pacific — PNG, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, the Cook Islands, Australia and New Zealand — would have been greatly affected by the decision of the Australian Rugby League Commission and the National Rugby League clubs. “To maintain the integrity of the World Cup and the participating nations, the decision was the right one.”
Tsaka said all rugby league-playing nations, players and fans would be disappointed as “we all looked forward to the 2021 World Cup.
“But in the end, the IRL and the 2021 World Cup organisers felt it was the right decision for the showpiece event and the game,” he said.
“Rugby league in PNG has been greatly affected by the pandemic since November, 2019.
“Many international and domestic competitions were cancelled and no camps or internationals had been played since due to travel restrictions.
“However, the postponement will enable our teams to have some good training camps and internationals matches which will enable them to be better prepared for the World Cup.
“We hope that over the next few months, the situation will improve and the restrictions are eased to enable this.”
Tsaka said the deferral would affect PNGRFL’s plans and budget as the sport’s national governing body had done significant work over the last 12 months to prepare plans and programmes for the Kumuls and Orchids.
“We will now go back to the drawing board and work with all our partners and stakeholders to re-plan for the World Cup,” he said.
“We will review our domestic and international plans in line with the deferral and work out a plan going forward.
“Obviously, ongoing challenges such as the restrictions will continue to be monitored.
“On behalf of PNGRFL, I commend IRL chairman Troy Grant for his leadership during these unprecedented challenging times.
“I also acknowledge the tremendous work done by 2021RLWC chief executive Jon Dutton, his chairman Chris Brindley and all their staff who have provided great support to PNGRFL over the last 12 months in our preparations for the showpiece event.”