World Cup fate still in the balance

A final decision on whether the Rugby League World Cup will go ahead this year is almost certain to be taken this week.

With the tournament officials having worked solidly to try to shore up the competition since the announcement by the Australian and New Zealand Rugby Leagues that they would not participate, World Cup Chief Executive Jon Dutton has been trying to determine whether a viable competition can be organised without two of the leading nations being present.

“Our relationship with the government is very strong and they want the tournament to go ahead, while we have had positive discussions with the BBC about their broadcasting contract,” Dutton told League Express at the weekend.

“Naturally, like us, they are disappointed with the news, but we have a really strong partnership with them.”

And with ticket sales for the opening match between England and Samoa at Newcastle’s St James’ Park now touching 30,000, Dutton admits that it would be a massive disappointment to many people if the World Cup were to be postponed.

“Doing that doesn’t fill me with any great excitement,” added Dutton.

“We know that if we can deliver a credible tournament in a responsible way that we still have much to offer.”

The World Cup team have been undertaking a survey of NRL players through the Rugby League Players’ Association in Australia and a big majority of respondents appear to have indicated that they would like to play in the tournament, although that has yet to be formally confirmed.

“The majority of players were bitterly upset by the way the decision was made. It’s not that they don’t want to play, but that the decision was taken out of their hands,” said Dutton.

“We want to ensure that the RLWC executive have all the facts in front of them and they can then make the correct decision.”

The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.