WAYNE Bennett believes World Cup wreckers Australia and New Zealand could and maybe should find the show going on without them.
It was also revealed England star Tom Burgess delayed his wedding to play for his country.
Player leaders Down Under are furious the call to withdraw from the tournament if it is played this year was made behind their backs.
And postponing for a year would kill it as it would put it up against football’s worldwide showpiece.
Fuming former England boss Bennett believes if it is decided to press on without the Kangaroos and Kiwis, which SunSport revealed will happen early next week, then tough.
The South Sydney chief, who also helped New Zealand to World Cup glory in 2008 and led Australia, also warned NRL clubs not to deny players, many of whom want to play, their ‘right’ to represent one of the other 14 nations.
He said: “The English players here are disappointed, they were all ready to go, Tom even postponed his marriage to go.
“They had no qualms about going and if it’s still on, I think he’ll go.
“Of course I’d support the players who want to play, it’s players’ rights, why wouldn’t I support it?
“If a player wants to go and play for Samoa, Tonga or whoever else, I don’t see why they can’t be allowed to play.
“I wouldn’t prevent any player from going. I don’t feel I have that right to. It’s not the right of the club. They can’t tell Fiji they can’t go and can’t tell England they can’t play. That’s the bottom line.
“England and the other nations feel like they’d committed to the World Cup and if Australia and New Zealand feel like they can’t, that’s their prerogative.
“It’s also the prerogative of the other nations to continue with the World Cup if that’s what they feel they can do and can still make it worthwhile.”
The Rugby League World Cup board will meet early next week to decide whether to go ahead without Australia and New Zealand or cancel the tournament completely.
The last two options come at great cost and England star Josh Hodgson warned of the consequences of moving it to 2022.
“We’ve got to understand as a game that the football World Cup’s on next year as well,” he said.
“We do want to push to be as big as football and as big as those top games in the world, we’ve got to put it on the biggest stage and you’ve got to do it at the right time.
“You do it alongside a football World Cup, it massively overshadows it.”
Talks have even reached a political level with sports minister Nigel Huddleston remaining in conversations with his counterparts in Australia and New Zealand, Richard Colbeck and Grant Robertson.
But for the Rugby League Players Association in Australia, politics flew out of the window and Australia and New Zealand players could play for other nations they qualify for.
That could see Aussie James Tedesco pull on an Italy shirt again or Kiwi Charnze Nikoll-Klokstad with the Cook Islands.
RLPA chief executive and former Hull KR player Clint Newton said: “We have had feedback from a number of players stating their intentions to compete in the tournament, pending more information becoming available in the coming weeks.
“Clearly, the views of those players have not been enough to prevent this decision and we believe it has been made prematurely.
“We had anticipated that players from Australia and New Zealand would have that same opportunity, which has unfortunately been taken away from them with the decision.”
SunSport understands Kiwi players were consulted via several Zoom meetings to keep them up to date and were also polled on several matters, including how many would be willing to have a vaccine and how many would be happy to quarantine on their return.
However, that is believed to have created more uncertainty and in spite of the anger, with Rugby Football League chairman Simon Johnson calling the decision ‘selfish and cowardly,’ NZRL chief Greg Peters insisted he did not hear what he wanted to hear.
He even pointed towards the UK Government’s attitude to coronavirus.
He said: “We still have a strategy down here of eliminate and vaccinate, they’ve got vaccinate and manage.
“Ideas are great but we needed detailed plans. It’s 10 weeks away, it’s gone too far.”