2021 Rugby World Cup: World Rugby recommends postponement of women's tournament due to coronavirus
2021 Rugby World Cup scheduled to be hosted in New Zealand between September 18-October 16; recommendation to postpone for a year to be considered by the Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee on March 8 and 9
Last Updated: 03/03/21 6:20am
The 2021 Rugby World Cup is set to be postponed until next year following a recommendation from World Rugby.
New Zealand is scheduled to host the ninth edition of the women's tournament from September 18 to October 16 but the tournament looks set to be delayed until 2022 due to the "uncertain and challenging global COVID-19 landscape".
The Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee will consider the recommendation on March 8 and 9.
A statement from World Rugby 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.
"Further updates will be issued following the Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee meetings next week."
The hosts and defending champions world champions New Zealand have not played a Test since 2019.
The Black Ferns have won five of the eight previous editions of the tournament and were preparing to defend their title against 11 other nations, including neighbours Australia.
Grant Robertson, New Zealand's Sports Minister, said: "We all wanted the tournament to go ahead as planned this year, but we also accept that the current Covid-19 constrained circumstances are not ideal for high performance athletes in a tournament situation.
"Ultimately this is a decision for World Rugby to make. If they do postpone we are fully committed to hosting the event next year.
"The government is supporting NZ Rugby's hosting of the tournament with financial contributions through the Major Events Development Fund and Sport New Zealand. That support will remain in place for 2022."
There have been ongoing delays to RWC 2021 qualifiers due to coronavirus, with 10 teams still competing for the three remaining places and no dates yet for when those fixtures would take place.
Australia, Canada, England, Fiji, France, New Zealand, South Africa, USA and Wales have all secured their place at the tournament.