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World Cup organisers and IRL officials are expected to make a decision next week about the viability of the tournament without the two top-ranked nations. 

There has been a range of views expressed across the game in the wake of Thursday's decision by Australia and New Zealand to withdraw from the World Cup but ARLC chairman Peter V'landys declared on Friday: "Human life comes first".

NZRL CEO Greg Peters said the reluctance of players to get vaccinated, along with delays in the vaccine delivery programs in Australia and New Zealand, had also played a role in the Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns withdrawing from the end-of-season tournament in England.

Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly believes the Australian and New Zealand men's and women's teams should play Tests in Auckland at the end of the season to reward Kiwi fans starved of league since the outbreak of COVID-19 early last year, but only if the trans-Tasman bubble re-opens.

South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett believes the Pacific nations would benefit if the tournament goes ahead without the Kangaroos and Kiwis.

The uncertainty has left Tonga, Samoa, PNG, Fiji and the Cook Islands in limbo, along with the Wheelaroos, who will learn on Saturday whether Wheelchair Rugby League Australia withdraws from the Wheelchair World Cup.

Representatives of the Pacific nations teams said on Friday that they still intended to participate in the World Cup if organisers reject Australia and New Zealand's call to postpone the tournament until 2022 and it will then be up to players to decide whether they want to play.

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World Cup officials are due to meet with UK Government representatives on Monday to discuss whether the tournament should proceed.

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary said he would try to convince his Samoan contingent, headed by star playmaker Jarome Luai, not to go to the World Cup while Bennett revealed prop Tom Burgess had delayed his wedding to play for England.

Cleary said he doesn't want the likes of Luai, Brian To'o, Stephen Crichton to play for Samoa or Viliame Kikau and Api Koroisau to represent Fiji at the World Cup.

"I wouldn't be comfortable. I have been meaning to talk to Romes [Luai] about that. It is a bit of a goal for him to try and represent his country but I think they will all understand," Cleary said.

"It is an exciting tournament for all the boys and a lot of the guys were really keen to play for their parent's heritage. I think it is an awesome thing for rugby league and it is just unfortunate that COVID is messing with something else.

"With the amount of money the UK Government has given to this event it must be extremely difficult but in terms of player welfare and the risks I think the right decision has been made."

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Bennett, who has coached Australia, New Zealand and England, said some of his Rabbitohs players, including England prop Tom Burgess, were disappointed about the tournament's precarious state. 

"Tommy has even postponed his marriage to go. I think he still will go if they proceed with it," he said.

"I would not prevent any player I am coaching from going. The NRL and NZRL have made a decision and that it is their prerogative to make those decisions, but if a player wants to go and play for Samoa or Tonga I don't see why he can't go and play."

The announcement by the ARLC and NZRL on Thursday was met with anger in Britain but V'landys hit back at the criticism and said the welfare of players who had been forced to relocate to Queensland and concerns about them catching COVID in the UK were behind the decision.

"The health of our players comes first, self-interest and tournaments comes second in our eyes," V'landys told 2GB. "They can carry on as much as they like but we make no apology that we first take into account the health of our players.

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"It is a world tournament and I don't begrudge that but our players have had a very tough year. They are currently in Queensland away from home, they are in isolation for 14 days up there, then they'd have to go to England and come back to isolate for another 14 days. It is just too much.

"There are 40,000 positives per day in England of COVID-19. There's 600,000 people this week in isolation. The last thing we want to do is take them over there, they catch the virus and they are stuck in a hotel room for 14 days in isolation. They would even have to isolate if they are a close contact.

"When we did the risk analysis it was too much and our priority has always been the welfare of our players, and we aren't going to take that risk."

New Zealand coach Michael Maguire said he wouldn't begrudge Kiwis with dual eligibility representing their heritage.

Bennett said the fact so many Australian and New Zealand players were eligible for the Pacific nations may be a silver lining for the likes of Tonga, Samoa, PNG, Fiji and the Cook Islands.

"If they went of their choice and they could take quality players with them, which they are all in the NRL so they are quality players, it will only enhance their position as far as I can see," Bennett said.

"There is a whole lot of nations that make up the World Cup. We are just a part of it."

Tonga coach Kristian Woolf told he had spoken with his players and they wanted further information, while Samoa's Matt Parish and his Cook Islands counterpart Tony Iro said they were waiting to hear if the tournament would proceed.

Peters said comparisons should not be made between the World Cup and other sporting events in England, such as Wimbledon or the end-of-season All Blacks and Wallabies Tests.

"It's a five-week tournament with 31 teams in total on the ground, and a large proportion of those are not vaccinated, for their own personal choice or the slowness of the vaccine program in both Australia and New Zealand," Peters told SEN Radio.

"When you see cases explode in the UK, they've been up 33 per cent in the last week, we just can't put our people in that environment."

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