World Rugby recommends year-long delay to Women's RWC 2021
Rugby union - 03 Mar 2021
The next edition of the Women’s Rugby World Cup, scheduled to take place in New Zealand in September and October this year, has been recommended by World Rugby to be postponed to 2022 instead.
The sport's global governing body said the decision to recommend a 12-month postponement was taken because of the “challenging Covid landscape.”
World Rugby said: “It has become clear in discussions with key partners including New Zealand Rugby, the New Zealand government and participating unions, that, given the scale of the event and the Covid related uncertainties, it is just not possible to deliver the environment for all teams to be the best that they can be.”
The recommendation will be assessed by the Rugby World Cup Board, and by the World Rugby Executive Committee, at a set of meetings on 8 and 9 March, after which a final decision will be taken.
New Zealand has adopted an extremely rigorous policy when it comes to coronavirus-based restrictions following the emergence of the pandemic early last year - its borders are closed to almost all travellers, and have been so since early in 2020, while regional lockdowns after only a handful of positive cases emerge are commonplace.
World Rugby said that apart from the uncertainty, the quarantine measures that the New Zealand government has instituted would have been a significant challenge, and would have impacted the ability of teams to "prepare adequately for a Rugby World Cup both before and on arrival.”
The tournament, to feature 12 teams, was scheduled to run from 18 September to 16 October, and to take place across two cities - Auckland and Whangerei.
The 2021 Rugby World Cup is not the first major women’s sporting event to have been delayed into 2022 because of challenges posed by coronavirus-based restrictions - in April last year, the decision was taken to move women’s soccer’s 2021 Uefa European Championships back 12 months from its intended slot this summer.
Grant Robertson, New Zealand’s sports minister, has said: "We all wanted the tournament to go ahead as planned this year, but we also accept that the current Covid-constrained circumstances are not ideal for high performance athletes.”
He also confirmed that the New Zealand government’s financial support of the tournament will stay in place if it is postponed until 2022.
Hosts New Zealand have won five of the last eight Women’s Rugby World Cups.