The New Zealand government on Wednesday lent its support for the 12-month postponement of the women’s rugby World Cup due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Competition, showing a side from France, The UK, South Africa and Australia, are scheduled to be held in the Southern Hemisphere for the first time this fall between 18 September and 16 October at three venues in Auckland and Whangārei.
But concerns have risen over health and safety following the coronavirus outbreak in Auckland over the past month.
“We all want the tournament to go according to plan this year,” said Grant Robertson, New Zealand’s sports minister. “But we also accept the flow Covid-19 Confined circumstances are not ideal for high-performing athletes in tournament situations.
“The government is supporting the organizers of the NZ Rugby tournament with financial contributions and that support will last for 2022,” added Robertson.
World Rugby, which hosts a 12-team event, will make the final decisions about the tournament during a series of meetings next week. But it is understood that officials will recommend rescheduling.
“It has become clear in recent discussions with key partners that, given the scale of the event and the uncertainty regarding Covid-19, it is impossible to provide an environment for all teams to be the best at the sport’s biggest stage,” said a World Rugby statement, Wednesday.
Hosts New Zealand are favorites to defend the title they won by beating England four years ago in Belfast.
It is their fifth crown since the start of the competition in 1991.
“This is disappointing news for our team and the wider rugby community,” said Jilly Collins, women’s rugby boss at Australian Rugby.
“In the end, safety has to be priority number one. In addition, tournaments need to be delivered according to the top event in the XV women’s rugby calendar with all teams prepared as best they can.”
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