Australia and New Zealand should be banned for pulling out of the World Cup and the show must go on without the two southern hemisphere powerhouses, according to Hull KR and Ireland prop George King.
World Cup chief executive Jon Dutton told a news conference on Thursday the chances of the tournament going ahead in the autumn were 50-50 and they receded further on Friday when the 16 NRL clubs threw their weight behind Australia and New Zealand.
Dutton is hoping to bypass the clubs and speak to the NRL players directly in an attempt to allay their concerns but the worry is that the hard-line stance by their employers could affect the participation of other southern hemisphere nations that make up half of the 16 teams.
King, who was set to take on New Zealand in the group stage, says the tournament has to go ahead by hook or by crook.
“The World Cup 100 per cent needs to go ahead,” he told Hull Live.
“We can’t just be led by Australia and New Zealand dominating international rugby league. There’s other nations.
“We can’t just cater for two nations just because their international hierarchy demands so. We’ve got to have a successful World Cup.
“Nearly every single sporting organisation relies on the international game to flourish in the lower ranks.
“It’s the same with rugby league. We’ve got to do exactly the same.”
Dutton told the news conference there was “little appetite” for a postponement, which would create a logistical nightmare and a clash with the FIFA World Cup.
Australia and New Zealand have cited safety fears amid the coronavirus pandemic but King is not buying it.
“It has to be now,” said the front-rower.
“We want to keep that consistency of every four years so the organisers can make sure the tournament is a success.
“We’ve got a good opportunity this year with crowds back. It’ll be the same as football and what those players had to do in terms of social bubbles.
“We won’t see games cancelled, it’ll be a lot stricter than your average Super League match.
Ryan Hall (5) of Hull KR is tackled by John Bateman (13) of Wigan Warriors
(Image: Craig Thomas/News Images)
“I don’t understand the reasons Australia and New Zealand don’t want to come over. They’re not really valid in my opinion. They’re just trying to preserve the NRL clubs and the State of Origin really.
“I feel sorry for the players because I know the players desperately want to come over.”
King has been left reassured by the organisers’ plans and would have no issue staying in a bio-secure bubble for the duration of Ireland’s stay at the World Cup.
“None at all,” he said. “I’ll do anything for my country.
“I can understand some players can’t do it for family reasons or financial reasons.
“But from what I’m hearing the World Cup are going to financially help players that might struggle with being part-time.
“There’s stuff in place now where it’s going to be a successful World Cup in the sense that the players are going to be well protected financially and Covid secure.
“The last thing we want to see is fans having to be reimbursed for their tickets. I just want it to be a good successful World Cup.
“I know the organisers have done everything on earth to try get Australia and New Zealand to sign up and agree but they’re dealing with selfish-minded people.”
Talks have taken place over bringing in Indigenous and Maori representative sides, while other nations could stand to benefit from Australia and New Zealand players becoming available.
King has called on the international game to make a stand.
“It could make for a successful, broader World Cup and it’d stick it to Australia and New Zealand that they’re not invincible and can’t dictate the international game,” said the 26-year-old.
“I’d probably ban them as well. You can’t do what you’re doing just to suit yourselves.
“You’ve got to do what’s right for the wider game.”