The 2021 women's Rugby World Cup to be hosted in New Zealand later this year has officially been postponed, a week after World Rugby recommended a delay.
A World Rugby Executive Committee formally ratified the recommendation to postpone event until 2022, it was confirmed today.
The tournament was set to take place on 18 September-16 October 2021 in Whangārei and Auckland, with the Black Ferns scheduled to take on rivals Australia on opening night at Eden Park.
Dates for the postponed tournament to be held in Auckland and Whangarei will be announced shortly following consultation with key tournament stakeholders.
The committee also endorsed work to develop and fund a Rugby World Cup 2021 high performance preparation and competition programme for qualified teams and teams still competing in the qualification process, a statement said.
The programme will be underpinned by a £2million funding package and will focus on providing teams with international competition to give them the greatest opportunity to be at their best in New Zealand next year.
Nine teams were already confirmed to take part in the tournament: New Zealand, Australia, Wales, Canada, USA, England, France, South Africa and Fiji, with the three final places still to be determined by qualifiers.
The 2021 Rugby World Cup is the second major women's competition scheduled for this year to be postponed.
Late last year, the 2021 women's Cricket World Cup which was also set to be hosted by New Zealand was moved to 2022 due to the pandemic.
"Our hearts go out to all the players, team personnel and fans who were preparing and looking forward to Rugby World Cup 2021 this year," World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said.
"We recognise that they will be extremely disappointed, but I would like to assure them that the decision to postpone has been made entirely in the interests of their welfare, well-being and preparation and the desire to put on a showcase tournament that will super-charge women's rugby globally.
"Given the number of athletes and personnel arriving from numerous locations, recent COVID-19 developments mean that it is simply not possible to guarantee optimal conditions for all teams to prepare for their pinnacle event, with continued uncertainties regarding training and match preparation.
"A Rugby World Cup is the best of the best, for the best of the best, and as we have seen in recent weeks, emergence of COVID-19 variants and ongoing lockdowns show that it is still a fragile global environment.
"The top players in the women's game should be guaranteed the stage that they deserve, with the opportunity for their family and friends to be able to attend, and also the wider national and international rugby family. Postponement by a year should enable us to enjoy the benefits of the global vaccination programme, easing the burden on international travel requirements and within New Zealand itself."