RLWC21 postponement expected on Thursday

The postponement of this year's Rugby League World Cup is set to be announced on Thursday.
The postponement of this year's Rugby League World Cup is set to be announced on Thursday.

The announcement of a postponement to the 2021 Rugby League World Cup is set to be made on Thursday.

Tournament organisers held an emergency board meeting on Wednesday at which it was anticipated a decision to put this autumn's event back to 2022 would be taken.

An announcement was expected in the evening but, after the meeting overran, a communication on behalf of officials confirmed that a statement would now be made at 07.30 BST (16.30 AEST, Thursday) and would be followed by a press conference.

The decision to postpone is expected to affect the men's, women's and wheelchair competitions, all of which were due to be held simultaneously in England this October and November.

Organisers have been forced to admit defeat in their attempts to stage the World Cup as planned, following the decision of Australia and New Zealand to withdraw.

The two major rugby league nations pulled out a fortnight ago citing safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Just a week earlier organisers had expressed confidence the event would go ahead, announcing charter flights would be provided with bio-secure bubbles in place for players and officials among a raft of safety protocols.

Yet this did not allay concerns from Australia and New Zealand, from where around 400 personnel were expected to travel to work with various teams.

Officials initially vowed to press on regardless, and began drawing up contingency plans involving alternative teams, but a statement on behalf of all 16 NRL clubs supporting the boycott last week proved the final straw.

New dates will now need to be found for the rearranged tournament and organisers are likely to want to avoid a clash with the FIFA World Cup in Qatar from November 21 to December 18 next year.

Venues will also need to be re-booked and broadcasting arrangements renegotiated.

There will also now be a gap in the rugby league calendar this autumn. There have been suggestions the already heavily-disrupted domestic season could be extended as a result, or alternative internationals involving European nations staged.

Australian Associated Press