Two Oceania Cup matches scheduled for June 2020 will be postponed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, but the Asia Pacific Rugby League Confederation (APRLC) remains committed to delivering Oceania Cup fixtures in October and/or November 2020.
The APRLC board held an emergency meeting on Thursday 19 March to consider the impact of current and fast-changing restrictions on sport, travel and public gatherings caused by COVID-19.
The meeting was attended by APRLC board members representing all International Rugby League (IRL) full member nations within APRLC – Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Samoa (Tonga National Rugby League remains suspended from the IRL).
The board determined that planning to proceed with the fixtures scheduled for Auckland on 20 June 2020 (New Zealand v Tonga and Samoa v Cook Islands) was not viable due to New Zealand’s current travel restrictions, self-isolation requirements for incoming travelers, and restrictions on mass gatherings.
Even if restrictions were to be lifted before the event date, it is not feasible to undertake the work required now to deliver matches in June amid the current uncertainty.
In addition, the board noted that postponing mid-season Oceania Cup matches may assist the NRL by freeing up the June representative round weekend, should they require extra flexibility in scheduling.
As such, the board voted unanimously to postpone the Oceania Cup fixtures scheduled for June, and to continue planning to deliver Oceania Cup fixtures in October and/or November, given the critical importance of international test matches for Asia-Pacific member nations in the year leading into Rugby League World Cup 2021.
“There are still a lot of moving parts, but this is the prudent way to go, and the best option to ensure all nations due to participate in Oceania Cup can play at least one international this year,” said APRLC chair, Sandis Tsaka.
“The APRLC board acknowledges that the ongoing uncertainty and restrictions around sport, travel and mass gatherings in Australia and New Zealand may necessitate further changes to planning, but we believe this is the most sensible position to adopt at this point in time,” agreed APRLC deputy chair, Greg Peters.
“We are grateful to the Rugby League Players’ Association (RLPA) for their ongoing support of Oceania Cup, and for acknowledging the importance of these fixtures for a large contingent of the playing group,” added IRL southern hemisphere general manager, Jeremy Edwards.