Some great news overnight as we got confirmation that the 2021 Rugby League World Cup will go ahead.
The Australian Rugby League sought assurances from tournament organisers that every effort would be made to protect the health of players and allow players free movement to travel to and from England without government lockdowns being applied.
Australia head into the competition as favourites with great companies like OlyBet and having them take part is a must for the competition to be at its very best!
The main concern from Australia is that players in the southern hemisphere have been in lockdown for an entire club season. This includes NRL players as well as NSW Cup and QLD Cup players. This player base will make up a large portion of the players who participate in the 2021 World Cup.
The New Zealand Warriors are a fantastic example what needs to be taken into consideration. Players at the clubs went through a lockdown last year that saw them all had to play in Australia and not be able to head back home to New Zealand for the majority of 2020.
In 2021 the the Warriors players have been in the same situation, having been based in Australia away from their homes in New Zealand since before the NRL season began. They then have been forced to move from a base in Gosford up to Queensland this week.
By taking part in the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, New Zealand Warriors players could have been in a bubble, away from home for around 11 straight months.
That is a lot to ask…
The Melbourne Storm are another great example. They have moved from Melbourne up to the Sunshine Coast. They then went back to Melbourne for just a couple of weeks, and now are back up in Queensland. The entire time they have been in the Covid bubble.
So while it is easy to say “NRL clubs just don’t want their players in the World Cup” the truth is that there is a lot to consider and NRL clubs, as well as the NRL itself and the RLPA are all just representing the players in any negotiations they have with the World Cup organisers.
I expect that we will see a number of players chose to not take part in the World Cup, and that is totally understandable. I can’t blame them at all.
Australia will cope better than every other nation. Their depth of talent, they will be able to put together a high quality side that will be hard to beat (Just look at 1995).
We could see any withdrawals have a huge effect on other nations though. The likes of Tonga, Fiji, Samoa and New Zealand can’t really afford to have too many players unavailable.
No matter what the makeup of teams look like, it will be an interesting tournament. We will see the depth of many nations tested but it will be some good Rugby League to watch at the end of the year.
Lets all hope that the Covid numbers all drop and the World Cup is played at the perfect time.