‘New Zealand 2021 will not simply raise the bar in terms of event hosting, it will shine a bright light on the sport and its incredible players to make the statement that the rise of women in rugby is real, is powerful and is transformational.’
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont, 19th November 2020
‘Rugby World Cup 2021 is a key milestone for the global development of our sport. Building on the success of past editions, this tournament will be a testimony to the incredible growth women’s rugby has experienced in past years. What better backdrop than New-Zealand to celebrate all of this!’
World Rugby Vice-Chairman Bernard Laporte, 28th January 2021
‘The recommendation (to postpone until 2022) 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.’
Rugby World Cup 2021 Statement, 3rd March 2021
Although it’s not official yet, the postponement of this year’s Rugby World Cup will be confirmed after the Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee meet on the 8th and 9th of March respectively. It’s another in a long list of sporting events that have been affected by COVID-19; but, perhaps naively, I thought this was one that might go ahead as planned, given the recent rhetoric above.
That said, I think it is the right decision to postpone; although nine teams have qualified, the remaining three are still to be confirmed and there has been a real lack of domestic and international women’s rugby played since the end of 2019. September is coming around pretty quick. and, even if the final three teams were somehow able to find a way to qualify, what level of meaningful game time would most of the teams be able to manage?
For me, the bigger issues relate to how women’s game continues to be treated compared to the men’s.
What dates are World Rugby recommending that the tournament takes place next year? Surely everyone involved deserves that level of detail now, not next week or potentially later? Next year is a busy one for Women’s rugby, with the Commonwealth Games, the Rugby World Cup Sevens and potentially a delayed Olympic Games. Even if it needs to be late 2022, i.e. November, at least make that public. If there isn’t a provisional date in mind, why the hell not?
How is it that the Black Ferns Captain Eloise Blackwell found out about the postponement via an email ?Are you seriously telling me that Sam Cane would have found out about the postponement of a World Cup in that way? Of course he wouldn’t. It’s cold, shoddy and disrespectful from World Rugby and New Zealand Rugby.
What are World Rugby and the individual Unions doing to get Women’s matches played over the next 18/21 months? If they know, or they are working on something, then tell us – more importantly tell the players. This remains an amateur sport with players holding down jobs to the best of their ability while making numerous sacrifices to play the game.
If the New Zealand border remains closed for the rearranged dates and players and staff need to have two weeks managed isolation, who pays for that? World Rugby? New Zealand Rugby? The New Zealand taxpayer? A combination? Surely that plan was finalised for this year, wasn’t it? If so, be honest and lay out the details.
If the men’s World Cup was this year, would the recommendation to postpone be the same? Ok, I appreciate that’s hypothetical, but I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that World Rugby and the participating Unions would be going the extra mile if faced with the same hurdles. How many scenarios have we seen rolled out to make the British & Irish Lions tour work this year? Plenty. We may not be comparing apples with apples with that one, but it illustrates the different mindset when it comes to the men and the money their game generates.
The amount of spin that is continually rolled out about the importance of the Women’s game is just that – spin. Management speak, fancy words, but ultimately there’s a lack of substance. That has been made clear yet again this week. When will it change?
I really feel for the players who have yet again been treated poorly. They are not alone in having their sporting dreams dashed for at least 12 months, it’s been a common occurrence over the last year, but they deserve better in terms of communication and planning. They deserve answers.
The World Rugby statement this week said ‘Further updates will be issued following the Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee meetings next week.’ Sadly, I’m not holding my breath.
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