World Rugby recommend that the tournament should be delayed due to Covid-19
Rugby World Cup 2021 postponed until 2022
This year’s Rugby World Cup is set to be postponed due to Covid-19.
World Rugby has made the recommendation to delay the tournament until 2022 and it will be considered by the RWC Board and World Rugby Executive Committee next week (8-9 March).
The world’s best women’s players were due to converge on New Zealand in September and October, but the tournament is now expected to be put back until 2022.
While this is a recommendation at present, it is highly likely that the RWC Board and World Rugby ExCo will ratify it next week, so we will have to wait until next year to see the best women’s teams in action at the tournament.
There have been ongoing delays to RWC 2021 qualifiers due to the pandemic, with ten teams still competing for the three remaining places and no dates yet for when those fixtures will take place. This week’s lockdown in Auckland also illustrates how quickly things can change at present.
Plus, concerns have rightly been raised about how well prepared teams will be for the World Cup given that so few women’s Test matches have been played in the past 12 months and the ongoing disruption to the international calendar ahead of the tournament. The hosts and defending champions New Zealand, for example, haven’t played a Test since 2019.
Global travel restrictions and the quarantine requirements for people arriving in New Zealand added further complications. With so many amateur players involved, an additional two weeks’ leave from work can create problems. Plus, there are the costs involved in that many people – players, coaches, medics, tournament staff etc – having to quarantine and who would foot that bill.
A World Rugby statement said: “While appreciating the recommendation is extremely disappointing for teams and fans, it has their interests at heart, and gives the tournament the best opportunity to be all it can be for them, all New Zealanders and the global rugby family.
“The recommendation is based on the evolution of the uncertain and challenging global Covid-19 landscape. It has become clear in recent 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-19 related uncertainties, it is just not possible to deliver the environment for all teams to be the best that they can be on the sport’s greatest stage.
“The challenges include uncertainty and the ability for teams to prepare adequately for a Rugby World Cup tournament both before and on arrival in New Zealand, and challenging global travel restrictions.
“World Rugby can assure teams, New Zealanders and the global rugby family that the recommendation to postpone the tournament will help to ensure that Rugby World Cup 2021 will be all it can be next year for players, fans and the rugby family – one of the great Rugby World Cups.”
It is still to be confirmed but it is likely that the tournament will now be played at the same time – September and October – in 2022.
Ireland have yet to qualify for the World Cup – they are due to play in a European qualifying tournament with Italy, Scotland and Spain – but they are backing the decision.
Anthony Eddy, IRFU director of women’s rugby, said: “We’re obviously disappointed. We want to play rugby. The Rugby World Cup deserves every opportunity to showcase the best that our sport has to offer and that’s not possible in the Covid-19 environment.
“We have always put player welfare at the heart of everything we do and that’s never been as important as it has over the past 12 months.
“We were preparing really well and that will stand to us. We’ll maintain that focus into the 2021 Women’s Six Nations.”
England are one of the favourites to lift the World Cup and the RFU’s head of women’s performance Nicky Ponsford said: “We are naturally disappointed but understanding of the decision.
“Player welfare has to be prioritised and ensuring teams both qualify on the pitch and can perform to their best at the tournament is also vitally important for the game.”
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