TOURNAMENT chief executive Jon Dutton says the chances of the 2021 World Cup taking place this autumn are 50-50.

Dutton told a press conference he does not expect Australia and New Zealand to change their minds about not taking part in the tournament, citing safety fears amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the options to postpone or cancel remain on the table.

Dutton says the World Cup directors have held two emergency board meetings since the bombshell announcement eight days ago and his priority is to speak to players in Australia in an effort to allay safety fears.

Dutton admits time is running out for organisers to make a decision, with England due to kick off the tournament against Samoa in Newcastle on October 23.

"Time is not on our side," he said. "Within the next 96 hours we need to get in front of as many players as possible to understand their fears.

"We are just over 80 days away from the tournament and we are talking about making a decision in a handful of days. I think at some point next week we will have a clear outcome."