With the official withdrawal of Australia and New Zealand from this year’s World Cup, I am now left with more questions than answers.
As far as I’m aware, the World Cup organisers and the UK government have every intention of going ahead with the tournament whether or not these two nations participate, but could this lead to other competing nations electing to withdraw now that Australia and New Zealand have?
Should the World Cup even go ahead without the two best rugby league nations competing?
What about NRL players who elect to represent other countries? Will they still be allowed to play in the World Cup for those nations if they please?
What do Australia and New Zealand do in the meantime?
Well, I’ll provide my opinion on those questions but that could very quickly change as I’m willing to bet more developments about the World Cup will take place over the next few weeks.
Should the World Cup go ahead without Australia and New Zealand? Yes.
But under the condition that the remaining southern hemisphere nations (Pacific Islands and Jamaica) will stay committed to participating.
If these nations elect to pull out, I would postpone the tournament to a time where all nations are comfortable competing. But as it stands, they should play on without Australia and New Zealand.
Obviously, there would be questions about the legitimacy of the tournament but I believe if select nations choose to withdraw at their own accord while the majority of other nations are happy to participate, the consequences should be reflected on the ARL and NZRL, not the rest of the competing nations.
So, play on without them, and heck, don’t even put an asterisk next to this World Cup. The Australian Rugby League and New Zealand Rugby League pulled out of their own accord they should accept the consequences of that – being they lose the privilege to attempt to win the World Cup.
Secondly, what about NRL players who wish to represent other nations? Now, as long as those players are comfortable participating in the World Cup given the conditions of COVID in England, they should be allowed to regardless of the NRL’s request.
After all, the ARL and NZRL pulled out not the NRL, so the Pacific Island nations in particular should not be punished for Australia and New Zealand’s decision. Again, only at the players’ discretion; if the players don’t want to participate, don’t make them.
Finally, what do Australia and New Zealand do? Will these two nations play Test matches down here in the meantime or will they just have a break?
Perhaps a three-match Test series between Australia and New Zealand in New Zealand would be a nice reward for the Kiwis, given their lack of rugby league over the last couple years.
But based on the ARL and NZRL’s cited reasons for withdrawal, they perhaps should just allow the players to take a break.
What happens now is, well, a question for the rugby league gods, I suppose.
But based on the current information we will have the first Rugby League World Cup in history without Australia and New Zealand.