World Rugby made it official Tuesday, ratifying a recommendation to postpone the 2021 women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand until next year.
The recommendation was made by World Rugby’s executive committee.
The governing body also approved a £2-million ($3.5-million) funding package to provide teams with international competition “to give them the greatest opportunity to be at their best in New Zealand next year.
World Rugby said the decision to postpone the women’s showcase event followed discussions with New Zealand Rugby, the New Zealand government and participating unions “as a result of the continued impact and insurmountable uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Our hearts go out to all the players, team personnel and fans who were preparing and looking forward to Rugby World Cup 2021 this year,” World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said in a statement.
“Given the number of athletes and personnel arriving from numerous locations, recent COVID-19 developments mean that it is simply not possible to guarantee optimal conditions for all teams to prepare for their pinnacle event, with continued uncertainties regarding training and match preparation,” he added.
The 12-country tournament was slated to run Sept. 18 to Oct. 16 across three match venues in New Zealand.
The Canadian women were slated to open the tournament on Sept. 17 in Whangarei against an Asian qualifier before taking on the sixth-ranked U.S. and a European qualifier.
The third-ranked Canadians have not been together since beating the Americans 19-0 and 52-27 at the Can-Am Series in November, 2019, in California. Many Canadian players have since moved overseas to find playing time to prepare for the ninth edition of the World Cup.
Seven teams qualified directly for the World Cup by virtue of finishing in the top seven at the 2017 tournament in Ireland: champion New Zealand, runner-up England, third-place France, the U.S., Canada, Australia and Wales.
Fiji and South Africa booked their ticket last year through the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup and Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship, respectively.
In addition to the Asia and Europe qualifiers, a final team will come from a world repechage.
The 2021 tournament marks the first women’s World Cup in the Southern Hemisphere.
Canada’s best World Cup finish was runner-up in 2014, when it was beaten 21-9 by England. The Canadian women finished fourth in 1998, 2002 and 2006 (when Canada hosted).
Drawn in a pool with New Zealand in 2017, Canada finished fifth.