The rugby league world was stunned today after Rugby League World Cup host France withdrew from hosting the 2025 edition of the tournament.
The decision to cancel hosting rights came following an emergency board meeting about the economic and financial impacts should France go ahead with the tournament.
In a statement released by France 2025, it said: "Despite the interest shown in this unique sport for all event with four competitions in one (Wheelchair, Women’s, Men’s, Youth) and accessible to all thanks to our ticketing rates, and despite the desire shown by several cities across France to host World Cup matches, the board had to decide to renounce organising this major international competition, which the International Rugby League had entrusted to France.
"The conditions of financial viability initially defined by the state to support the project, set in January 2022, were not fully met, despite the search for solutions and the additional three months granted by the state to the organising committee at the end of 2022.
"This difficult decision was taken so as not to threaten the robustness of the major international sporting event models that France now wishes to promote."
Can RLWC 2025 be saved?
Despite the news, the International Rugby League Board will meet on Wednesday to discuss options on who hosts 2025, and it seems the Trans-tasman rivals could be the saving grace.
In a Facebook post moments ago via the official New Zealand Kiwis page, a statement was made by New Zealand Rugby League chief executive Greg Peters that his organisation and the Australia Rugby League Commission (ARLC) are in talks to work together as dual hosts for 2025.
The post said: "We are exploring the possibility of a southern hemisphere RLWC as an alternative to France 2025.
"We're keen to work with the ARLC to host the tournament in New Zealand and Australia and have started the conversations."
It's not the first time NZ has played co-hosts with Australia, having done so in 1968, 1975 and 1977. NZ was part of three host nations for the 2017 edition of the RLWC, alongside Papua New Guinea and Australia.
The IRL board continues to work on finalising international fixtures for this year and 2024, with expectations to notify member nations of planned qualifying matches or alternative fixtures after July this year.
IRL chair Troy Grant said the withdrawal was disappointing after the French government required a guarantee for the risk of loss associated with the event, and the France 2025 board of directors felt it had no alternative but to comply.
“The board meets face to face in July and we will then be able to determine together our next steps forward and consider the other bids we have received for not only 2025, but 2029, 2033 and World Cup 9s events in the future.
“The Rugby League World Cup in France in 2025 was always an ambitious project given the unprecedented short lead in time due to the pandemic. However, it had the advantage of following and leveraging off the widely acknowledged RLWC2021 success."