All 16 NRL clubs have backed Australia and New Zealand on their withdrawal from the World Cup, in a bitter blow for the tournament.
All clubs highlighted safety and welfare concerns for their players, with calls for the competition to be postponed until 2022.
“We all want to see a strong, safe and successful Rugby League World Cup,” Canberra CEO Don Furner said.
“It’s clear that cannot be achieved in 2021, but we are in strong support for the tournament to be held in 2022.
“We want the players to come home healthy.
“There are two massive challenges here. The UK infection rate is increasing, with the two countries being at different stages of vaccination levels and approach to dealing with the virus.
“Secondly, there are several unknowns in terms of the process and protocols for players who may get exposed to COVID-19 locations and how that may disrupt the tournament.”
With players ready to be gauged on their stance – with as many as 75% wanting the tournament to go ahead – their clubs’ positions could now stop them from taking part.
“The NRL and its clubs have gone to great lengths and invested heavily to ensure our players remain healthy and the competition continues,” Souths CEO Blake Solly said.
“These measures have been taken with an infection rate in Australia that is minimal when compared to the rate in the UK.
“This rate of infection is far too high for us to be confident the players will not contract COVID-19 during the World Cup in the UK.”