Australia and New Zealand have pulled out of the Rugby League World Cup because of “player welfare and safety concerns” related to Covid-19.
The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) have asked organisers if it can be rescheduled for 2022.
NZRL chief Greg Peters said it was “simply too unsafe” to take part.
“The safety and wellbeing of our people is the main priority, and unfortunately, that cannot be guaranteed to our satisfaction.
“There are stark differences between how the pandemic is being managed in the UK compared to Australasia, and recent developments have highlighted how quickly things can change.
“The tournament organisers have moved heaven and earth to make this work, so it is not an easy decision, but the Covid-19 situation in the UK shows no sign of improving, and it’s simply too unsafe to send teams and staff over.”
ARLC chairman Peter V’landys added: “Not participating in this year’s World Cup is not a decision the commission has taken lightly, but we must put the best interests of our players and officials first. Protecting them is our absolute priority.
“In the current environment, the risks to the safety, health and wellbeing of the players and officials travelling from Australia to participate in the tournament this year are insurmountable.”