The world champion Black Ferns may have to wait another 12 months to defend their title after World Rugby recommended postponing Rugby World Cup 2021, scheduled to be hosted in Aotearoa later this year, until 2022.
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 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.
Sports and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson says Aotearoa is committed to hosting the World Cup in 2022 if that is the decision of World Rugby.
“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," Robertson says.
“Also, preparation for the tournament in many countries has been limited, and some qualifying matches have not been able to be played. This means 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.
“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.
“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,” Grant Robertson said.
“We really believe that it's the right recommendation taking into account the best interest of the players and fans; certainly this decision has players at heart"— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) March 2, 2021
Interim World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin, on the difficult decision to recommend the postponement of Rugby World Cup 2021 pic.twitter.com/weUn1iXi98
World Rugby assures 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.
The recommendation will be considered by the Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee on March 8 and 9 respectively.