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Brasil, Chile Rugby League dealt COVID-19 blow

Brasil Rugby League has suffered a triple blow due to COVID-19, with an international game against Chile cancelled, talks with a potential World Cup sponsor put on ice, and a national talent camp to face big changes.

Brasil and Chile received International Rugby League (IRL) sanctioning just 10 days ago for a men’s game between the two nations to be held alongside the Ipswich Jets versus PNG Hunters game on May 9.

Today’s cancellation of all Queensland Rugby League (QRL) major competitions until June 5 due to COVID-19 was just one of a number of factors that led to the decision to halt the Brasil-Chile game.

“The whole situation has escalated so rapidly that we didn’t even have a chance to properly announce the game before it was cancelled,” said Brasil football manager Robert Burgin.

“To their credit the IRL worked with us in giving the green light to the game on short notice and adding it to the international calendar so we could join a day of multicultural celebration for Ipswich and PNG.

“If you’d said to us even a week ago that the game would be cancelled because of COVID-19 concerns, we would have been disbelieving.

“But the reality is already starting to hit home and the financial and family pressures on some of our players is clearly evident.

“We have some players who work in the fitness industry who have lost half their clientele in one week, others who will be deeply impacted by travel restrictions, and making group bookings in advance with any certainty has become extremely difficult.”

Both countries hope to reschedule a game for later in the year, possibly alongside fixtures for other Latin American nations and youth teams.

In an added blow to Brasil, its history-making women’s team – drawn to face England in the opening game of the 2021 World Cup – has had to postpone discussions with a potential major sponsor.

The sponsor, a significant player in the international travel market, also cited COVID-19 and the associated economic downturn as reason for freezing discussions which had progressed over several months.

“In a long-term sense, that is probably the bigger blow,” admitted Burgin.

“The World Cup appearance by the women is a massive opportunity in all senses, and landing major sponsors is critical to not only our preparation for the tournament, but also the legacy for rugby league in Brasil – and Latin America by association.

“We’re not a one-trick pony and we have other organisations to talk to, but approaching any business right now about sponsorship is a tough task.

“We also have national talent development camps coming up in April in Sao Lourenco and, although we are determined to press ahead, there are some key personnel who have had to forego travel.

“That’s a developing situation and we are confident of arranging alternatives, but it’s not ideal.”

For their part, Chile’s men’s side is still looking at playing the Philippines in Sydney later in the season.

The Weichafes have also booked a spot for a November 10 Americas Cup showdown in Jamaica. Colombia is continuing its intention to host a Latin American championship in November 11-15 near the city of Medellin, with between three and five other nations set to travel for the event.

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