Bad news for Women’s rugby fans if Rugby World Cup postponed

Bad news for Women's rugby fans if Rugby World Cup postponed

There’s nothing else that you can say about it. It will be bad news for Women’s rugby fans if the Rugby World Cup 2021 is postponed. That is across the board, women or men because any Rugby World Cup postponed is disappointing.

That is from the athlete’s point of view. From stakeholders to the organizer’s points of view too. So even while the obvious reasons that World Rugby has announced as their set of reasons and recommendations, it will still leave a hollow feeling for all.

Again, if ‘any World Cup is postponed’ must be respected. It has impacted multiple events since March 2020 – the 2021 Women’s Cricket World Cup, the Cross Country World Cup, as well as the ISSF Shooting World Cup. So across many different sports, women, and men who have been preparing for weeks/months (if not years), each receive the bad news in the same way. And each will feel just as deflated.

Female rugby players from England to the Pacific Islands, are in their late preparations; planning to meet peak fitness goals in six months, will now all have to hit the pause button. World Rugby has made the difficult decision to ‘recommend the postponement of Rugby World Cup 2021‘ (which is not to say that it has been). And even while this has been reported across global media networks as a certainty, until that call is signed off by Sir Bill Beaumont, it is their recommendation.

It would mean the scheduled tournament to be hosted in New Zealand would have to be postponed until next year. The recommendation will be considered by the Rugby World Cup Board and, World Rugby Executive Committee on March 8 and 9 respectively.

Bad news for Women’s rugby fans if Rugby World Cup postponed

That statement is in no way a representation for ‘that part of the game’. No, it is a reflection of how the delay will undermine all the gains being made in the women’s game. That is from the grassroots level, right up to the administrative role. Any disruption to that continuum will put a brake on the rise in popularity that having a Rugby World Cup postponed will hinder.

So as far as how young girls idolize the leading players like Sarah Hunter or Kendra Cocksedge, to the improved standards created by International sides like France, and just recently Spain, that will all be delayed and attention must be made on ways to retain public awareness. So too in how Asia is working desperately hard to benefit from the World Cup held in Tokyo – working to maintain the momentum that was developed from that successful tournament for the men’s game.

It is not just the sex of players either but, in how recognition that rugby on every level has built-up new awareness. Far away from ‘chuck the ball around’ style that was utilized [too] often in the last century. Previously, it was just ‘get the oval ball out on the field’ in women’s sport to compete with the round football. But in the last decade, rugby is now a game that is known and promoted as widely by women as men.

Across participation levels globally, its growth is unquestioned – meaning 2021 was going to be another leap up, from the event held in Ireland in 2017. Huge leaps are being made in more women taking higher places in the administration of rugby, and rugby league. Pushing aside the typical image of mature male board members, women are taking up influential roles, such as Katie Sadleir who is a leading figure in World Rugby halls of power.

All positive strides although, as expressed by New Zealand Rugby board member, Dr Farah Palmer, the reality of the pandemic is matter of fact. “We understand it’s so uncertain at the moment with regards to Covid-19, the whole environment and there are too many uncertainties, it’s an understandable decision but it’s still disappointing,” Palmer told TVNZ.

“There will have to be some kind of miracle for that to change, so we just wanted to front foot and make sure everyone is aware that we did try our best. It [Covid] is affecting teams overseas, they haven’t even had a chance to play, some of the national teams.”

Rugby World Cup postponed; teams must be prepared to wait

Palmer said it would be tough for the players to wait another 12 months before the tournament but, they should consider the postponement a blessing. “When you’re an elite athlete, you put your life on hold to go to these events,” she said. By that, she and all stakeholders must also transmit that into secured funding for amateur sides to be well funded to carry on with competition in their region [including the remaining RWC qualification tournaments to be held].

Apart from the initial vitriol, all the dismayed public statements, Tweets, and video, and the frustrations felt by women’s rugby supporters is constant across the globe. Feeling let down, there will come acceptance. That is if World Rugby confirms this Rugby World Cup postponed, then reasonable steps can be made to reschedule.

Leading figures have spoken of immediate disbelief before accepting the call. New Zealand Black Ferns captain Eloise Blackwell was surprised – and saddened for herself, her teammates, and the other player’s who she would be facing in September. She said in an NZR news report, “I was upset for a couple of hours but now you know, same goal, same grind.

Black Ferns RWC

“[We’re] still going to be working towards 2022 if that’s what’s decided by the board in a weeks’ time.”

Around the world, more female players will react similarly. Then admitting that while an aberration (not wanted), they have to accept the judgment – it is likely we will see a Rugby World Cup postponed. But importantly for them, move on and make new plans. Teams must be prepared to wait.

Possibly not everyone will be able to hold the same level of public interest, however, World Rugby and the national unions must join together in one voice. A ‘world in Union’ to make 2022 a special year for the sport.

 

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