NEW ZEALAND and Australia have both withdrawn from the Rugby League World Cup in England due to Coronavirus concerns.
The tournament is due to kick off on October 23 and culminate on November 27.
But the surge in Covid infections in the UK, coupled with strict quarantines both sets of players will have to undergo upon their arrival home, have prompted the Kiwis and the Kangaroos to pull out of the competition.
A statement from NZRL CEO Greg Peters read: "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.
"We understand how disappointing this is for fans and those involved; however player and staff safety remains paramount."
Peters' sentiment was echoed by ARLC Chairman Peter V'landys.
V'landys said: "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.
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
"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.
"The majority of NRL players are currently living away from home under difficult biosecurity protocols.
"They would then be required to remain under protocols and away from home for the duration of the tournament before again quarantining on return to Australia.
"This is too much to ask our players and officials to do.
"We have again requested the IRL and Rugby League World Cup consider postponing the event until 2022 to enable all players to participate."
The IRL have yet to release a statement on New Zealand and Australia's respective withdrawals from this autumn's tournament.
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At this moment in time, fourteen teams – including hosts England – remain in the competition.
Six currently remain in the women's competition.
New Zealand and Australia's withdrawals, however, could prompt other teams to also pull out of the tournament.
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