Ireland’s World Cup dream is set to be put on hold after World Rugby announced that they are to recommend that this year’s tournament be postponed due to issues arising from the pandemic.
he latest development will come as a devastating blow to the Ireland squad, who were due to play in a qualifying tournament in the coming weeks.
The 2021 World Cup was to be held in New Zealand later this year, however, a decision will be formally made next week to postpone the tournament until next year.
Although New Zealand has largely had a firm grip over Covid-19, the country has been dealing with a rising number of cases recently, which has seen Auckland be shut down for the second time in a month.
Women’s rugby has already been decimated by the pandemic as the Six Nations was unable to take place in its regular slot due to the largely amateur status of the players.
A revamped, shortened version of the Six Nations is due to be held next month, but the loss of the World Cup to this year’s calendar is a major setback for all concerned.
A statement from World Rugby read: “World Rugby has made the difficult decision to recommend the postponement of Rugby World Cup 2021, scheduled to be hosted in New Zealand between 18 September-16 October, until next year.
“The recommendation will be considered by the Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee on 8 and 9 March 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 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.”
The IRFU’s director of women’s rugby, Anthony Eddy admitted that the news had come as a blow.
“We’re obviously disappointed,” said Eddy.
“We want to play rugby. The Rugby World Cup deserves every opportunity to showcase the best that our sport has to offer and that’s not possible in the Covid-19 environment.
“We have always put player welfare at the heart of everything we do and that’s never been as important as it has over the past 12 months.
“We were preparing really well and that will stand to us. We’ll maintain that focus into the 2021 Women’s Six Nations.”