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John Dutton, CEO of the World Cup, admits that the tournament hangs in the balance

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John Dutton, CEO of the tournament, has recognized the 2021 World Cup.

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Dutton told a news conference that the chances of the tournament being held this fall are between 50 and 50 and said time is running out to make a final decision.

Australia and New Zealand are not expected to change their minds about withdrawing from the tournament following they cited safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic and said options to postpone or cancel were still on the table.

Dutton says World Cup directors have held two emergency board meetings since the bomb was announced eight days ago, and with the NRL steadily seeking delays, it aims to bypass clubs and appeal directly to their players in an effort to allay safety concerns.

“We have spent five and a half years working tirelessly to make this the best Rugby World Cup ever, and to this day we intend to persevere this journey,” he said.

“We will provide a safe environment and contradict all claims that have been made that it will not be safe and secure for players. Yesterday we released a secure bioinformatics chart for all teams to show all measures that have been put in place.

“We are fully committed to organizing the tournament this year but only if we are competent to. We forever have alternative options and they include both postponing, although it is unpalatable, as well as not organizing the event at all.”

Asked about the prospects for England’s match against Samoa at St James’s Park in Newcastle on October 23, Dutton said: “I think it will be 50-50 but we won’t know until we listen to the players.

“We have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Rugby League Players Association and I cannot speak highly enough about Clint Newton and his team who have been so supportive.

“I think a lot of the concerns are more about luxury than safety. Without the players, we don’t have a championship and that’s why we need to listen to them.”

Dutton says “nobody has the desire to delay” and believes revenue from better-than-expected business deals will aid cover the additional costs of vital security measures, which will include charter flights to bring in 400 or so players and officials from Australia and the cost of quarantining when they return.

Dutton says the plan is to commit to 16 teams in the men’s competition, and while the US and Serbia would be the most sensible alternative following losing in the playoffs, he would be begin to inviting teams representing the indigenous All-Star and New Zealand Maori.

Andrew Vivita, the previous Australia test assistant who switched sides prior the 2017 World Cup to Tonga, said he would be begin to playing with an indigenous team.

Dutton says a precedent was set 21 years ago when a Maori team competed in the 2000 World Cup and revealed that he spoke to representatives of both potential teams.

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World Cup organizers are working with previous Hull North Korea striker Clint Newton in his role as CEO of the Rugby League Players Association (Andrew Matthews/Penn)

“We are very excited about these proposals,” Dutton said. “We want to see the best players in the world play in the tournament, and if there is a way to persevere doing that in 2021, we want to investigate that possibility.

“We are working closely with the International Rugby League on the teams that will come to replace Australia and New Zealand, the men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams.

“We don’t want to redraw the championship, so we will look at alternative teams on a like-for-like basis. When that becomes unattainable, we have to look at alternative options.

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Andrew Vivita says he will be eager to play for an Indigenous team at the World Cup (Lynne Cameron/PA)

“Time is not on our side. For the next 96 hours, we need to stand in fore of as many players as conceivable to talk to and understand and silent their concerns.

“We are more than 80 days away from the championship, and although we don’t have a deadline to drop, we are talking about a few days. I think at some point next week we will have a clear result.

“We understand what’s going on in the NRL, with their bubble on the Gold Coast, and we totally understand that New Zealand warriors have been away from their families for weeks and months. We’ve got that firm but it’s also about desire.”


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