NRL, Rugby League World Cup news

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Former Australian Test star Blake Ferguson has backed a call for the Indigenous All Stars to play in the depleted Rugby League World Cup, along with a Maori team.

After Australia and New Zealand confirmed that they would not send teams to the season-ending event in the UK, Ferguson backed a call from former Eels teammate Brad Takairangi for Indigenous and Maori teams to take part.

“This would be great, I’m in and I know all the brothers are keen to make this happen. Would be one for the history books and our people,” Ferguson, who would feature in a extremely talented squad if the idea came to fruition, wrote on Twitter.

The Rugby League Players Association has slammed the Australia-NZ snub of the tournament. Leading players like James Tedesco, Damien Cook and Christian Welch have said that they would like to participate.

Ferguson has played seven Tests for Australia, plus nine Origins for NSW, five games for the Indigenous All Stars and 244 NRL matches. Takairangi is currently playing for Hull KR and has represented Cook Islands, New Zealand and the Maori All Stars.

Former NRL referee Gavin Badger, an Indigenous man, said of Takairangi’s proposal: “How good would this be. This needs to happen.”

Rugby Football League chairman Simon Johnson slammed the Australia-NZ decision to withdraw from the World Cup as “selfish, parochial and cowardly”. ARLC chairman Peter V’landys explained the call in a statement.

“Not participating in this year’s World Cup is not a decision the Commission has taken lightly, but we must put the best interests of our players and officials first. Protecting them is our absolute priority,” he said.

“In the current environment, the risks to the safety, health and wellbeing of the players and officials travelling from Australia to participate in the tournament this year are insurmountable.

“The majority of NRL players are currently living away from home under difficult biosecurity protocols. They would then be required to remain under protocols and away from home for the duration of the tournament before again quarantining on return to Australia. This is too much to ask our players and officials to do.

“We have again requested the IRL and Rugby League World Cup consider postponing the event until 2022 to enable all players to participate.”

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