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Australia withdraws from Students World Cup

The Australian Universities team has officially withdrawn from the Students Rugby League World Cup in the wake of global restrictions caused by COVID-19.

The Australian Universities Rugby League board have made the decision that they are unable to continue planning for the tournament scheduled to be held in England in July 2021.

The AURL informed World Cup organisers that issues around funding and world travel have provided too much uncertainty for planning of the trip to continue.

The annual interstate match between NSW Universities and Queensland Universities has also been cancelled.

It had been set down for October to give the squad a long run in to the Students’ World Cup, which Australia would be defending for the third straight time.

New plans for the 2021 university representative season have been drawn up.

AURL Chairman Tas Baitieri said the withdrawal was a tough decision to make, but the board had little choice.

“It was a hard decision to make because I believe we are the only Australian team that has won their respective division of the 2008, 2013 and 2017 World Cups,” Baitieri said.

“But when taking into consideration the uncertainty surrounding world travel and funding at this time, there seemed little other option.

“The AURL attracts regular funding from the NRL, but obviously there has been some uncertainty for the game this year because of the effects of the COVID-19 virus.

“Essentially though it is a pay-to-play system at this level – the majority of these trips are funded through a subsidy levied on the selected players that they must meet themselves.

“With everyone going through difficult times, that would be a huge ask next year for students.”

It is hoped a South Pacific championship can be initiated for October next year between teams such as Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and possibly Tonga and Samoa.

That would mean the annual interstate challenge between the NSW and Queensland universities teams would be played in mid-2021.