Updated 14 hours ago
THE SIX NATIONS has confirmed the postponement of the 2021 Women’s and U20s Six Nations championships due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
No revised dates have been announced at this stage but organisers say the competitions will be rescheduled for “later this spring or early summer.”
The Six Nations has also confirmed that the Men’s 2021 Six Nations is still set to be played as currently scheduled, kicking off in four weekends’ time on 6/7 February.
The French government yesterday demanded more information about Covid-19 protocols in Ireland and England before giving the green light for its national team to play those away fixtures, but the Six Nations said it remains “in constant dialogue with each of its governmental authorities and is further reinforcing its Covid-19 protocols.”
The Women’s championship has been pushed back until later this year in part due to the additional challenge of amateur players having to work in their full-time jobs during the course of the international competition.
Prior to Covid-19, the Six Nations had been considering a move for the Women’s Six Nations anyway, with the idea being to give it more visibility away from the usual focus on the Men’s championship. It’s understood the Six Nations may consider a permanent unique window for the Women’s competition in the future.
There will be a scheduling challenge this year given that qualifying for the 2021 Women’s World Cup – due to take place in New Zealand in September and October – remains ongoing.
Ireland Women were due to feature in a key qualifying competition last month but that was postponed due to Covid-19. Adam Griggs’ team haven’t played since their rescheduled 2020 Six Nations game against Italy last October.
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Six Nations organisers said they will be factoring World Cup qualifiers into their own rescheduling plans and stressed the need for “proper aligned preparations for unions that have already qualified [for the World Cup].”
Early indications are that the Women’s Six Nations could take place in April and May.
“This is disappointing news that we fully accept is in the best interests of everyone involved,” said IRFU director of women’s rugby, Anthony Eddy.
“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.
“We will also continue to work with World Rugby to ensure our Rugby World Cup 2021 qualification games can take place in a timely and safe manner.”
Meanwhile, the U20 championship could be played this summer, given that the World Rugby U20 Championship is not due to take place as would normally be the case in that window.
It has been an extremely challenging time for underage rugby in Ireland since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with young players around the country deprived of the chance to play regularly and continue their development.
– This article was updated to state that Ireland Women’s most recent game was in October, rather than February.