Defiant Hodgson hopes World Cup goes on

Canberra and England hooker Josh Hodgson insists he wants to play in the Rugby League World Cup, and his club coach Ricky Stuart says he won’t stand in his way.

In the wake of the Australia and New Zealand’s withdrawal from the tournament, Hodgson also warned against any move to postpone the event until next year due to the scheduling of the FIFA World Cup in 2022.

After starring in the Raiders’ 12-10 win over the Eels on Thursday, the England stalwart was asked if he would be making himself available for the tournament if it goes ahead in October despite the Covid situation and the prospect of going from one bubble to another after a gruelling season.

“Of course. I love playing for my country,” Hodgson said.

“It is a tough situation. I have got family myself and we are fortunate our families are here (in the NRL bubble on the Gold Coast), a lot more fortunate than some of the Sydney teams, and we definitely don’t take that for granted.

Josh Hodgson says the World Cup is important for growing the game. Picture: Mike Owen/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“But if you can try and grow the game and represent your country, then that is what you have got to do whether it is tough or not.

“I am in a lot different position to the rest of the people going over there. I have family at home (in England) that I can lean on a little bit once we go back. I can’t comment for other nations, but I can just say I hope it goes ahead.”

Former Kangaroo star Stuart said he would not prevent any of his players from making a personal choice on attending the tournament.

“That comes down to the individual,” he said

“Josh Hodgson… is an intelligent bloke who will always put his family and mental and physical welfare at the forefront. I have Samoans, Tongans and Englishmen, and if they think they are physically and mentally OK to play, then I support that.”

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys and New Zealand Rugby League chief executive Greg Peters have both said the decision to withdraw their two sides was based on player wellbeing and safety given the Covid situations impacting the NRL and the United Kingdom.

RLWC2021 note the disappointing statement made by the ARLC and NZRL which may have wide ranging implications for international Rugby League. RLWC2021 were informed at very short notice and will continue discussions with all stakeholders to agree on the best way forward. pic.twitter.com/Qa4UcalL6W

Hodgson said the decision was “unfortunate” and provided his own assessment on why the tournament should go ahead.

“The growth of the game is always at the forefront of my mind. You always want to play for your country, and we all hope we can get it going,” he said.

“We have to understand as a game that the football (FIFA) World Cup is on next year as well. If we want to push to be as big as football and those top (sports) in the world and make the game bigger, like we always preach over here by taking it to Western Australia and South Australia, then we have got to put it on the biggest stage and at the right time.

“If you put it alongside the football World Cup then it massively overshadows it. I have lived in England all my life and know how big football is over there. Hopefully, they can get some talk going and resolve things.”

Hodgson said the tournament would “not be the same” without Australia and New Zealand.

Stuart said he understood the two national bodies’ decision to withdraw.

“I am disappointed that guys aren’t getting the opportunity to be travelling and representing their country…but I really don’t know if a lot of the boys would have been mentally up to finishing their season in a hub and then going away again for a World Cup. I think they need a rest,” Stuart said.

“I am all for representative football, but I don’t think the World Cup is the only thing Covid is disrupting at the moment. It is a unique situation we are in.”

International Rugby League chair Troy Grant said the RLPA had indicated that Australia and New Zealand players who were dual-qualified for other nations still wanted to compete at the World Cup.

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