Injuries, retirements and players declaring for other nations means the positions in half of Australia's World Cup squad is up for grabs.
The ARL Commission could face a legal fight to play any end-of-year Tests between Australia and New Zealand, with International Rugby League boss Troy Grant claiming World Cup officials may seek an injunction.
World Cup organisers will spend the next three days weighing up what to do with the global tournament, still furious over the withdrawals of the Kangaroos and Kiwis.
At this stage, the preferred option remains for the tournament to go ahead this year without the two top-ranked teams, with cancellation a more likely alternative than postponement.
Regardless, both Australia and New Zealand are hopeful they can play some international footy this year after almost two years without a match.
But after they pulled out of the global showpiece, Grant indicated such a game would not be granted official Test match status by the IRL.
“Any of those matches have to be sanctioned or get approval,” Grant told AAP.
“If the World Cup was cancelled or postponed then that would be of potential.
“But I am not sure it would be looked upon favourably if it was run whilst the World Cup was supposed to be run.”
Asked if a match could still be played as a friendly or exhibition game, Grant warned there could still be potential sanctions considered for both nations.
“There are a lot of scenarios there,” Grant said.
“But the World Cup could probably take an injunction out on it happening from a commercial point of view if it was an event in contrast to what they were supposed to be doing.
“Or they could play it, risking (IRL) sanction.”
Grant was among the harshest critics of Australia and New Zealand’s calls to pull out of the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions on Thursday.
Safety, health and wellbeing of players were the main concerns, as COVID-19 case numbers rose to 43,000 per day over the past week in the UK.
ARLC chairman Peter V’landys also believed further time inside a bubble would be too much to ask of players, after months of biosecurity protocols.
But IRL officials want to know what had changed since NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said last week the tournament would be an “individual decision” for players to make.
“That’s at the core of the problem,” Grant said.
“The players are blowing up too, not just us. Because the decision wasn’t given to them.”
Organisers had also leaned on biosecurity advice from the Euros and Wimbledon, while also bringing in the ICC’s World Test Championship Final event director Greg Warnecke.
And Grant said with that in mind, his preference was for the tournament to still be played this year.
“We want the World Cup to go ahead this year unless something dramatically changes in England,” Grant said.
“If all these other events can run, why can’t ours?
“India (cricket) are over there. And the biosecurity arrangements for Virat Kohli are good enough for him.
“The Wallabies will be going over soon. The biosecurity is good enough for them but not good enough for our guys? It’s hard to understand”.