Rugby League World Cup: Players’ union criticises Australia and New Zealand withdrawal

Australia have won the Rugby League World Cup on 11 occasions, while New Zealand have lifted the trophy once

Players were not consulted before Australia and New Zealand withdrew from the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, a director of the Rugby League Players’ Association (RLPA) has said.

“I was thoroughly disappointed [with the decision],” said Christian Welch, a Melbourne Storm and Queensland prop forward.

“Having had discussions with players, they were really excited about the opportunity to go to England and participate in the World Cup for their nation.

“They had an understanding of the pretty harsh protocols and quarantine, so it was not going to be the most enjoyable trip compared to pre-Covid times, but the majority of players were really keen to give it a go – that’s what’s so disappointing.

“We had an RLPA board meeting the day before it was announced and the players were caught off guard as 24 hours later we were told the Kiwis and Australians had pulled out.

“The major reason given was player welfare but the body that represents the majority of players was not consulted.”

After the Covid-19 pandemic brought sports leagues around the world to a halt last year, Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) was one of the first to return to action in May 2020.

But Welch felt the NRL should have done more to help the World Cup go ahead.

“The most telling thing is how the NRL was able to come back from Covid and found an amazing way of state border exemptions but it seems the NRL have just wanted to quit on the World Cup,” added Welch.

“I feel for the players that would’ve dearly loved to have played for their country. The game was really taking off a few years ago but this has been unfortunate for the game.”

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