England are the reigning women's Six Nations champions
Dublin (AFP) - The women’s Six Nations tournament has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, organisers said on Wednesday, while insisting the flagship men’s version will go ahead as scheduled.
The organisers said they hoped the women’s and the men’s Under 20’s competitions – which were due to be played in February and March – will be able to be played “later this spring or early summer.”
With the women’s teams largely being made up of amateurs – 2020 champions England are the only fully professional side whilst France are semi-professional – fitting them into a bubble for the tournament is extremely problematic if not impossible.
The previous women’s Six Nations was also affected with the championship being brought to a premature halt last November due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The women’s Rugby World Cup starts on September 18 in New Zealand but Ireland, Scotland or Italy are yet to book their spot at the global event.
Their Six Nations games may end up doubling as qualifiers for that tournament.
Britain has been one of the hardest hit globally by the virus outbreak, with more than 83,000 people losing their lives after testing positive for the virus.
It is currently mired in its third, and worst, wave of the virus, registering record daily case numbers and death tolls blamed on a new strain of the disease.
“The dynamic nature of the external environment and the ongoing challenges it presents, particularly for sports and teams of amateur status, meant a collective agreement to push both Championships to new later windows was prudent to ensure, where possible, that both competitions can be played safely and without interruption in 2021,” read Six Nations Rugby Limited’s statement.
“It was also important that the decision was made in a timely manner to allow players and management to plan accordingly.”
- ‘Constant dialogue’ -
Owen Farrell's England won last year's men's Six Nations
However, they remain confident the men’s tournament will begin on February 6 as planned.
“Whilst closely monitoring the situation, Six Nations Rugby also confirms plans to stage the men’s Six Nations Championship remain as scheduled,” read their statement.
“Following the successful completion of the 2020 Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup, Six Nations Rugby is in constant dialogue with each of its governmental authorities and is further reinforcing its Covid-19 protocols.”
Both the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) accepted there had been no option but for a delay to the women’s tournament.
“Due to the unpredictable nature of this virus, it is important that we continue to be agile and flexible, as we have been for the past year,” said the SRU’s Head of Girls’ and Women’s Performance Rugby Gemma Fay.
Anthony Eddy, the IRFU’s Director of Women’s and Sevens Rugby, said his players were used to such disappointments.
“Our training programme is reviewed on an ongoing basis to adapt to ever changing circumstances and our players have demonstrated a commendable attitude and resilience in this regard while adhering to strict safety protocols.”