AAP Rugby

League players stay put during pandemic

By AAP Newswire

Ex-NRL stars playing in the Super League will remain in lockdown in Europe and away from their extended families as they wait for rugby league to restart.

The English Super League has been shut down since last week, with the coronavirus pandemic having already hit England and France hard.

There are more than 40 Australians and New Zealanders playing in the league and it's believed the vast majority will stay put in their homes in France and England.

James Maloney, Manu Ma'u, Israel Folau, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Jackson Hastings, Lachlan Coote, Aidan Sezer, Konrad Hurrell and Matt Prior are among the big names in the competition.

Sonny Bill Williams, Darcy Lussick, Ricky Leutele and Josh McCrone also feature for the Toronto Wolfpack, who are based in Manchester for the early part of the season.

It's believed some players were offered the chance to return back to the southern hemisphere, but have knocked back the option.

"Speaking to a few people I trust and love they said it was a good idea to stay put here," Hastings told Fox League on Wednesday.

"Obviously when you travel back you will be quarantined, I would be in a house with my mum and my two sisters.

"The risk of giving it to one of them if I was travelling, or my grandfather who just turned 80 today is obviously in the high-risk category.

"So I just made the decision to put that to the side and stay in England until it's safe to go home really."

The same challenges have already been faced by English NRL players.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned those living abroad should return home now or they might not have the chance to do so soon.

There are also concerns if they leave Australia they may not be able to return in time if the season restarts.

Canberra's five British stars will remain in the Australian capital, despite having strong family ties back in the northern hemisphere.

James Graham and Tom Burgess have been in the NRL far longer and are expected to stay in Australia.

Gold Coast centre Kallum Watkins will also remain in the country after he and his wife only arrived from England midway through last year.

Meanwhile the Warriors confirmed earlier this week they had allowed two of their Australian players to remain in the country as the rest of the team returned to New Zealand.