Women's Rugby World Cup to be postponed until 2022

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World Rugby has made the “difficult decision” to postpone this year’s women’s World Cup until 2022 because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the game’s governing body has confirmed. The decision is expected to be ratified by the Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee when both groups meet on March 8 and 9 respectively. The tournament was due to start on September 18 in New Zealand, which has recorded just 26 deaths from Covid-19. Rugby’s governing body said that the decision to push the tournament back a year was based on “the evolution of the uncertain and challenging global COVID-19 landscape” with the New Zealand border situation proving a major logistical sticking point. Last month, Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, said her country’s borders will remain closed until the nation is “vaccinated and protected” for most of 2021. The news is likely to come as a shock to the rugby community, given that this year’s Women’s Six Nations had been shortened and rescheduled to April in a bid to provide teams with vital preparation time ahead of the tournament. A statement from World Rugby read: “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.” Last weekend, Spain secured a spot in the European qualifying tournament for the World Cup after a 87-0 victory over Holland. But no date had been set for the Women’s Rugby Europe Championship, which would have decided which team would qualify for the tournament out of Spain, Italy, Ireland and Scotland. Reacting to the news, Nicky Ponsford, the Rugby Football Union’s head of women’s performance, 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. “As with every challenge over the last 12 months, we will look to take the positives and put a comprehensive plan in place that will put us in the best position to compete at the World Cup should the postponement recommendation be ratified.”

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