Kangaroos, Kiwis coach want RLWC postponed

Kangaroos coach Mel Meninga would like to see the World Cup postponed rather than cancelled.
Kangaroos coach Mel Meninga would like to see the World Cup postponed rather than cancelled.

Mal Meninga and Michael Maguire want Rugby League's World Cup postponed as 72 hours of crisis meetings loom over whether to play the tournament following Australia and New Zealand's exits.

Furious World Cup officials will meet with representatives of the remaining 14 nations this weekend, as they weigh up what to do following Thursday's withdrawal.

It's understood postponing until next year is the least likely option on the table, behind going ahead without Meninga and Maguire's teams or cancelling it altogether.

The most likely scenario is to play it with 14 teams, while there is also a consideration of trying to replace the Kangaroos and Kiwis in the draw.

Former England and NRL coach Wayne Bennett backed that path on Friday, insisting the game was far better than just Australia and New Zealand.

It comes after the Rugby League Players Association criticised the ARL Commission for not consulting players first, with the International Rugby League also unhappy.

Meninga as Kangaroos coach can see both sides of the argument, understanding why players want to play but also noting the rise to 43,000 cases per day this week in England.

Instead, he hopes his team can still play next year with Oceanic and European competitions to take place instead this summer.

Part of Meninga's solution would include the Kangaroos playing Tests in New Zealand, given they have been starved of rugby league since 2019.

"It's just disappointing. We haven't had international footy for a long time and the World Cup is a really important part of it," Meninga told AAP.

"The best-case is they postpone it, and they get to play games at the end of the year in the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere.

"We didn't have internationals last year because of COVID-19.

"This year we want to play some kind of international games so they keep it in the forefront for everyone."

That scenario would also avoid quarantine on return, and the impact on NRL pre-seasons.

Kiwis coach Maguire also hoped the tournament would be pushed back.

"I hope it is postponed and we get to play it in 12 months' time or play it at the right time," Maguire said.

"To be able to have a World Cup and have the best players playing in it, that's what a World Cup is all about."

However, their pushes at this stage are likely to fall on deaf ears.

World Cup CEO Jon Dutton told AAP last year they would rather cancel the tournament than postpone it if troubles hit, and it's understood that remains their stance.

Chief among the concerns is whether the UK Government will maintain its $42 million in funding, given the desire for it to be held this year.

Officials have also noted that Australia has sent teams to the Olympics, while the Wallabies also still plan a spring tour of Europe.

A recent survey of players backed by World Cup officials also showed 75 per cent of players wanted the tournament to go ahead.

There is also a school of thought that a decision could have been further delayed, with organisers having prepared a lengthy biosecurity plan that allowed players some freedoms.

Australian Associated Press