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Australia, New Zealand pull out of World Cup in England

The tournament is due to get under way in England in October.

Holders Australia and New Zealand have withdrawn from this year's Rugby League World Cup in England, saying it is "simply too unsafe" to travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Australia, who have won the tournament a record 11 times, and 2008 champions New Zealand were due to head for the United Kingdom this autumn to take part in the tournament, which is scheduled to get under way on October 23.

However with Covid-19 infection rates in the host nation continuing to rise, the two southern hemisphere powerhouses have decided not to travel and repeated calls for the competition to be postponed until 2022.

A joint statement from the two nations said: "The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) today informed the International Rugby League (IRL) and Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) organisers that Australia and New Zealand will not compete in a 2021 World Cup because of player welfare and safety concerns.

"The ARLC and NZRL have again requested the RLWC2021 be postponed until 2022 to minimise risk of players contracting COVID-19 and ensure the best outcome for player well-being.

"The ARLC and NZRL have resolved, that in the present environment the risks to athletes and officials travelling to the UK to participate in the tournament this year are too great, and it is unable to endorse Australia and New Zealand participating in the RLWC in 2021."

NZRL chief executive Greg Peters cited "stark differences" between the management of the pandemic in the UK and Australasia and insisted it was "simply too unsafe" for the teams to take part in the tournament.

He said: "The safety and well-being 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."

Australia have won the Rugby League World Cup a record 11 times
Australia have won the Rugby League World Cup a record 11 times (Gregg Porteous/PA Media)

ARLC chairman Peter V'landys AM reiterated his New Zealand counterpart's concerns and issued a renewed appeal for the tournament to be rescheduled for next year.

"In the current environment, the risks to the safety, health and well-being of the players and officials travelling from Australia to participate in the tournament this year are insurmountable," he said.

"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."

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Australia celebrate winning the Rugby League World Cup in December 2017
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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
ChinaChina29171662
United StatesUnited States22251764
JapanJapan1761033
AustraliaAustralia1441533
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia12211750
Great BritainGreat Britain11121235
Today's Olympic highlights header

Tuesday's key events


DIVING
· Team GB duo Jack Laugher - silver medallist in Rio - and James Heatly take part in the men's 3m springboard semi-final (2am), and will hope to qualify for the final later in the day (7am)

ATHLETICS
· Two Britons are involved in the women's long jump final, but Abigail Irozuru and Jazmin Sawyers have their work cut out to get a spot on the podium (2.50am)
· Norwegian Karsten Warholm, who broke the world record just last month, goes for gold in the men's 400m hurdles final. USA's Rai Benjamin is expected to be his main challenger (4.20am)
· Great Britain have three representatives in the final of the women's 800m, with Jemma Reekie having perhaps the best chance of a medal (1.25pm)
· A mouth-watering women's 200m final sees Elaine Thompson-Herah go for the prestigious sprint double after claiming the 100m crown. Compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Namibia's Christine Mboma and USA's Gabrielle Thomas are expected to be her main competitors (1.50pm)

SAILING
· The rescheduled women's skiff 49er FX (4.33am) and men's skiff 49er (5.33am) come to their conclusion, with Team GB involved in both medal races
· Defending champion Giles Scott bids for a second successive gold in the Finn class medal race (6.33am)
· There is another medal chance for Team GB in the mixed Nacra 17 medal race (7.33am)

ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS
· Team GB's Joe Fraser takes part in the parallel bars final, kicking off the final day of artistic gymnastics (9am)
· USA superstar Simone Biles, who has been forced to pull out of all of her finals so far, is on the starting list for the beam final as she bids for a fifth Olympic gold (9.50am)

FOOTBALL
· The men's semi-finals take place, with Mexico taking on Brazil first up (9am)
· The winner of that first semi-final will face either hosts Japan or Spain (2pm)

CYCLING
· Laura Kenny will look to win a third straight Olympic team pursuit gold medal. Team GB take on United States in their heat (7.44am), with the gold medal race later that day (9.26am)
· Laura's husband and fellow Olympic legend Jason Kenny will also look to continue his huge success in the men's team sprint - an event he has won gold in at every Games since 2008. Team GB will first need to get through the men's qualifying (7.58am), with the gold medal race ending the session (9.44am)

BOXING
· Pat McCormack will be looking to achieve his dream of Olympic gold when he faces Cuba's Roniel Iglesias (11.05am)

> Today's schedule in full
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