Oceania Cup cancelled for 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions

Oceania Cup cancelled for 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions


Boyd Cordner helped Australia win last year's Oceania Cup ©Getty Images

The 2020 Oceania Cup has been cancelled after organisers deemed it "impossible" to hold the rugby league tournament with the current COVID-19 restrictions in place.

The competition was initially scheduled to begin in June and finish in November, but will now not take place this year. 

The Asia Pacific Rugby League Confederation (APRLC) issued a statement claiming it had spent the past six months "exploring fixture options for 2020" after being forced in March to postpone the men’s and women’s matches which were due to be held in June.

Now the APRLC has conceded that "ongoing restrictions and complexities about player travel", as well as limits on crowd numbers, made it too difficult to stage this year's event, which was set to feature the Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga.

All six countries were due to contest the men's event, while Fiji, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Samoa were set to play in the women's tournament.

The men's tournament was held for the first time in 2019 and won by Australia - who were not going to defend the title - while 2020 was supposed to be inaugural women's event.


Fiji were crowned Oceania Shield champions after topping Group B in 2019 ©Getty Images

APRLC chairman Sandis Tsaka said: "The Oceania Cup is a wonderful tournament that offers a meaningful structure for Pacific test matches in a fair and competitive environment.

"It is extremely disappointing to have been forced to cancel the 2020 tournament, as there was great excitement among our member nations about this year's fixtures in both June and November.

"But unfortunately current restrictions and uncertainties have made it impossible to follow any other path."

Greg Peters, vice-chairman of APRLC added it had been a "very difficult year for rugby league" with "numerous challenges" thrown up.

"We have been working hard over the past few months to explore a multitude of options for hosting Oceania Cup matches," Peters elaborated.

"But the recent rise in cases in both New Zealand and Australia, coupled with ongoing restrictions on travel and mass gatherings, have forced our hand."

Clint Newton, chief executive of the Rugby League Players' Association (RLPA), said he was disappointed by the announcement but admitted it was the "right decision".

"Players are intensely passionate when provided with the opportunity to represent their heritage, and we will work towards providing those opportunities next year," Newton said.

"The RLPA will continue to work closely with the APRLC to advance the Asia-Pacific nations and we looking forward to further strengthening our relationship over the coming six to 12 months."

By Geoff Berkeley