AUSTRALIA and New Zealand are legally bound to travel to the Rugby League World Cup they helped doom to delay.
But players will NOT have to be fully vaccinated from Covid-19 to travel to England.
The revised schedule for the rescheduled tournament was revealed yesterday, with the biggest change being the switch of the wheelchair final from Liverpool to Manchester.
And chief executive Jon Dutton revealed the participation agreements the countries signed are bound by law – but there will not be a fully vaccinated condition.
Several NRL players are refusing to be jabbed but Dutton said: “The tournament will not put in place a mandatory vaccination policy.
“What we’ll put in place is what other people would expect, whether that’s from an airline, a nation or the competition the players compete in.
“However, the vaccination rates are heartening and we’ll adhere to whatever rules Public Health England have in place.
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“The agreements are as legally binding as any other contract we have and if people want to do things, it will happen.
“I genuinely believe Australia, New Zealand and everyone else want it. We have legally binding, signed agreements and we didn’t have that before.
“We’ve spoken to Australia’s rugby union and the All Blacks, as well as everyone involved with the Tokyo Olympics, to learn but the Rugby League Players Association is strong.
“I’ll meet with their head, Clint Newton, as well as all the NRL club’s chief executives, in Australia and they’re fully behind it.
“Had we gone ahead, restrictions on players would’ve been quite significant. We all want access to players and they want to do things in the local community.”
As well as fixture changes – Wigan will now host the double header that will see England’s men’s quarter final and the women’s group game with Canada while group games in Leeds and Hull have switched– the delay invoked other costs.
Some nations bought kit that cannot now be used and some fans have asked for ticket refunds.
But commercial deals remain largely in place and hopes of selling 70,000 tickets for the opening day games between England and Samoa at Newcastle’s St James’ Park and Australia v Fiji at Leeds’ Headingley remain high.
As of yesterday, there were almost 1,500 people in a queue for passes for the hosts’ opener on October 15, with a sellout possible.
Dutton added: “We had to renegotiate 170 agreements that would all expire on December 31. We could’ve lost multiple venues and multiple games.
“But we’re in a strong commercial position and have rebuilt some relationships.
“The extra year has given us a chance to up our hopes. For opening day, we’re targeting 70,000 tickets and we want to sell out the women’s opener between England and Brazil.
“The cost of postponement was significant. We had to be nimble and agile but we want to deliver what we set out to do.
“And this tournament wouldn’t have been possible without Government support.”