Talking Rugby League with League Express editor Martyn Sadler
If you want to know what I think about the role of the Australian Rugby League in the decision to postpone the 2021 Rugby League World Cup to 2022, then you should listen to the Total Rugby League Show podcast here on TotalRL.com
Like many people who have commented since the decision to postpone was announced on Thursday morning, I have a sense of relief that at least we now know where we stand.
And while I deeply regret that the World Cup won’t be going ahead this year, there are at least some compensating factors.
We need to think positively about the postponement, and here are the reasons why it may turn out for the best after all.
1 Because of the ARL’s and NZRL’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the tournament this year, far more people in England know that the World Cup is on, given the publicity that the tournament received when those decisions were announced.
2 If the tournament had been played in 2021, the England, France and home nations players would probably have entered the tournament in a state of near exhaustion, such has been the nature of this ridiculous season, with fixture crammed upon fixture and players going down like ninepins, while also playing while carrying injuries. Next season we have the opportunity to construct a fixture list that I hope won’t damage our chances in the tournament.
3 If the tournament had been played this year, there would have been an undeniable chance that it would have been compromised by Covid outbreaks. If matches in a World Cup had to be postponed, with players having to isolate, how would those matches be played?
4 Next year, although Covid will undoubtedly still be with us, there is at least a chance that the majority of Australians and New Zealanders will have been vaccinated against the virus, which should make them feel much more confident about coming to England to participate in the World Cup.
5 In connection with the last point, the social experiences we should be able to offer the players and visiting supporters next year are likely to be much better than what we could have offered them in 2021, when the players would almost certainly have been expected to exist in tight biosecure bubbles, as we have seen at the Olympic Games, where competitors weren’t able to experience the host country. That isn’t much fun, and hopefully the restrictions will be nothing like as tight by the time we get to October 2022.
6 Given the publicity that I’ve referred to earlier, I would hope that the World Cup organisers can continue to bring new commercial partners into the fold.
7 The World Cup will be played almost exactly 50 years after Great Britain won the World Cup in 1972, which was the last time we won it. The World Cup Final that year was played on 11 November, which of course also happens to be Remembrance Day. I suggested to World Cup CEO that it would be great to hold the World Cup Final on that date, which occurs on a Friday in 2022, but I suspect that may be a little too early for holding the tournament finale.
8 It’s noticeable how there are a significant number of young French players appearing on the scene, both for the Catalans Dragons and Toulouse Olympique. For a long time we have wanted to see a French revival, and another twelve months may see the French international team improve significantly from what they might have been in 2021. I would love to see it.
9 The women’s and wheelchair tournaments have enjoyed priceless publicity recently in being linked with the men’s tournament and I can certainly see them both playing to sellout audiences in 2022, perhaps exceeding what they would have attracted in 2021.
10 If there are venues that were due to host matches in 2021 that won’t be able to in 2022, it would be great to see a bidding war from other potential venues to come to the party.
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