Postponing the Women's Rugby World Cup for a year due to Covid-19 uncertainty will have a silver lining - hordes of international visitors may be allowed in the country to watch, local organisers say.
World Rugby is recommending the postponement of the tournament, which was set to be held in Whangārei and Auckland from September 18 to October 16, to next year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The recommendation will be considered by Rugby World Cup officials next week.
"While appreciating the recommendation is extremely disappointing for teams and fans, it has their interests at heart, and gives the tournament the best opportunity to be all it can be for them, all New Zealanders and the global rugby family," World Rugby said in a statement.
But while the news was met with disappointment in Northland - Whangārei was set to host every team playing in the 12-strong competition, including reigning World Cup holders the Black Ferns, England, Australia, South Africa and France - organisers are looking on the bright side.
With a number of Northlanders competing to get in the Black Ferns squad, including Portia Woodman, Leilani Perese, Aleisha-Pearl Nelson, Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu, Aroha Savage, Eloise Blackwell, Krystal Murray, Jay Jay Taylor and Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, there was expected to be huge interest in the host team's performance, but with the borders closed it was likely that only Kiwis would get to see the games this year.
"Our team is dismayed for the teams, their supporters, everyone worked so hard to bring the games here and for the whole Whangārei community," Whangārei District Council's Group Manager Community, Sandra Boardman, who is a member of the Rugby World Cup 2021 organising committee, said.
"Not only was Whangārei to host more games than any other centre, we were also going to host the very first game of the tournament. We are disappointed but we understand the need to keep everyone safe and we support decisions that are about protecting all of us.
"If there is any silver lining to a postponement, it's that there will be even more for visitors to see and do in Whangārei next year – the Hundertwasser Arts Centre will be open, the grand new park beside it at the Town Basin will be complete. At Semenoff Stadium, the new lights are now in and will serve the community for decades, and the stadium is due for a number of upgrades over the coming months."
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Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai said another potential positive was that with the Covid vaccine being rolled out across the world, international travel may even resume by the time the tournament is held here.
And that will mean thousands of international visitors seeing Northland - something that wouldn't have happened if the tournament went ahead this year.
''That would lead to a lot of extra people coming to Whangārei - (the postponement) is totally out of our control and we've got to look on the positive side.''
Mai said a postponement would not likely lead to any major cost increases for the council to host the competition.
Northland Black Ferns rugby player Aleisha-Pearl Nelson was gutted at the thought of the competition that here and her teammates have been training for so long may be postponed.
''It's still not finalised (to be postponed) so we're all hoping it's going to go ahead this year. But I'll be pretty devastated if it is postponed,'' she said.
She agreed that one silver lining would be that more international fans may be able to attend next year.
''It will also give them a chance to promote the game better and help give us the coverage we deserve.
''We know Northland and the country is right behind us and we will all be working hard to make the team next year. All of us want that Fern on our chests and we will all be doing hat we can to make the team next year. It's just an honour and privilege to play for your country and we all want to take part in that tournament.''