This year’s Rugby World Cup, which is scheduled to be hosted in New Zealand from September 18 to October 18, may be postponed until next year if a proposal by the sport’s world governing body is adopted.
World Rugby released a statement on Tuesday citing the “evolution of the uncertain and challenging global COVID-19 landscape” as the reasons behind the recommendation.
World Rugby noted that it would be difficult under the prevailing circumstances for teams to prepare adequately for a Rugby World Cup tournament both before and on arrival in New Zealand, while global travel restrictions would also present their own set of challenges.
“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 statement read in part.
The proposal is to be considered by the Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee on March 8 and 9, respectively.
World Rugby acknowledged the proposal was “disappointing” but added it was one that gave the showpiece an opportunity to be the best possible for everyone involved.
“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.”
New Zealand is one of the most successful developed nations in controlling the spread of the pandemic and, as such, is regarded as one of the best places to host a major sporting event.
However, New Zealand’s borders are currently closed to nearly all travellers and its largest city, Auckland, one of the host cities, recently entered a week-long lockdown following the detection of a new COVID-19 case.