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Women's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand set to be postponed a year to 2022 due to Covid concerns
01:12 am GMT+12, 03/03/2021, New Zealand

The Black Ferns will have to wait another year to defend their Rugby World Cup title with World Rugby confirming the Women’s World Cup set down for New Zealand is set to be postponed until 2022 due to Covid-19 pandemic challenges.
 
World Rugby issued a statement on Wednesday morning, saying its tournament organisers had made “the difficult decision’’ to recommend to the board that the event be postponed.
 
Twelve teams are set to contest the women’s World Cup, with the opening match, semifinal and final set down for Auckland’s Eden Park.
 
The recommendation will be considered by the Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee on March 8 and 9, respectively.
 
“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 World Rugby Statement said.
 
“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’s acting chief executive Alan Gilpin said in a video that “we appreciate that the decision ... will be hugely disappointing for players and fans alike,’’ but the global body were convinced it was “in the best interests of players and fans".
 
“This decision has players at heart," he said.
 
Gilpin said it had become clear in recent weeks that “we did not have the level of certainty we needed to be able to collectively deliver the best environment for all teams to be at their best.
 
“Rugby World Cup 2021 is the pinnacle of women's rugby, and we are committed to provide the best conditions for players and teams to prepare fully and compete at their best. Postponing the tournament to next year provides the best opportunity to do that."
 
Gilpin said the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic meant it was “difficult to guarantee adequate preparation time for all teams in advance of their arrival in New Zealand and during their time in New Zealand.
 
Recent Covid-19 cases around the world and in New Zealand “highlights the unpredictability of the Covid-19 pandemic and its ongoing potential to disrupt our plans", he said.
 
The difficulties around preparation time were highlighted by the postponement of the Six Nations women’s tournament this year due to the pandemic in Europe.
 
Sports Minister Grant Robertson said the government remained committed to hosting the World Cup in 2022 should a decision to postpone be made by World Rugby’s board.
 
“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.
 
“Also, preparation for the tournament in many countries has been limited, and some qualifying matches have not been able to be played. This means that many athletes in other countries will not be getting the training or the game time they need in the lead up to this major tournament.
 
“Ultimately this is a decision for World Rugby to make. If they do postpone we are fully committed to hosting the event next year.”
 
Robertson said the government was supporting NZ Rugby’s hosting of the tournament with financial contributions through the Major Events Development Fund and Sport New Zealand. That support would remain in place for 2022.
 
“I want to acknowledge that this will be a particularly disappointing outcome for all the players if the tournament is postponed, particularly our own Black Ferns. We want to work with them to make sure they ready for the Women’s Rugby World Cup here in 2022 as they have this year,” Robertson said.
 
Gilpin said he wanted to “reassure all players and all New Zealanders" that “their patience and dedication will be rewarded’’ with a top Rugby World Cup tournament in 2022.
 
The Black Ferns – who won the last world title in Ireland in 2017 – were scheduled to play Australia in the opening game on September 18.
 
All matches were to be played in Auckland or Whangarei.
 
The tournament was to be played in three pools.

SOURCE: STUFF NZ/PACNEWS

 


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