The 2021 Rugby World Cup is set to be postponed until next year following a recommendation from World Rugby due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The ninth edition of the women's Rugby World Cup tournament was scheduled to be held in New Zealand between September 18 and October 16 but the ongoing and uncertain challenges that COVID-19 poses has led to World Rugby suggesting the tournament should be moved to 2022.
The Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee will be considering the recommendation on March 8 and 9 where a decision will be made about the future of the tournament.
"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," read a statement from World Rugby.
"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."
Grant Robertson, New Zealand's Sports Minister, added: "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."
Author: Jake Wilkin