UPDATED: This article has been updated to include the Black Ferns' November schedule.

The Black Ferns won't play any test rugby this year, despite only being a year out from the Rugby World Cup.

The world champions were scheduled to play eight tests - including seven at home - ahead of next year's World Cup in New Zealand, but Covid-19 has forced those matches to be cancelled.

Among the games announced in March this year were tests against the USA in Dunedin and two O'Reilly Cup clashes against the Wallaroos, with more test announcements promised before the pandemic forced the worldwide suspension of rugby.

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New Zealand Rugby, who initially hoped to reschedule at least two tests this year, confirmed that the Black Ferns won't be playing international games at all in 2020.

"The Wallaroos are unable to make it over," NZR chief executive Mark Robinson told Newshub.

"We would've liked to have got some international competition for the team, obviously. That was something we've continued to work through really carefully and were really committed to in the last little while.

"But unfortunately, we haven't been able to do that, so we'll focus on a domestic type situation … that's the best we can do for now."

The world champion Black Ferns will play no test rugby this year. Photo / Photosport
The world champion Black Ferns will play no test rugby this year. Photo / Photosport

The news comes after NZR worked hard to secure a full All Blacks test schedule for this year, including two Bledisloe Cup tests to be played in New Zealand in October.

Many in the New Zealand rugby community expressed their disappointment on social media, including Wellington Pride player Alice Soper.

"Ata māria [sic] to everyone, except @NZRugby who have done everything possible to ensure the All Blacks play but are happy to leave the Black Ferns to play domestically the year before a World Cup," Soper wrote on Twitter.

"Ridiculous that we aren't playing a test the year before a World Cup but okay, if we are playing local Barbarians, when?" Soper added in another tweet, which included a video expressing her frustration with NZR.

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"I thought maybe we were going to make it happen, particularly how hard they worked to make the men's stuff go. But na it's not happening for us.

"And okay sure, multiple layers as to why. But you know what, when you make an announcement, have a backup ready to go. We want to build momentum and we want to build excitement into a World Cup."

NZR later announced a revised three-match schedule in November at the conclusion of the Farah Palmer Cup - consisting of a Possibles v Probables match on Saturday November 7, and two clashes between the Black Ferns and the New Zealand Barbarians on November 14 and 21.

In a statement, Robinson said NZR remained "committed to having the Black Ferns play in front of our local fans as we build up to next year's Rugby World Cup and the opening rounds of the Farah Palmer Cup have been a good indicator of the outstanding quality of rugby we can expect from these three matches".

"Covid-19 has caused a range of unique complexities for the international women's game. Many players balance work commitments with rugby, so for many teams extended periods away from their home countries to play international rugby is tough," Robinson said.

"The financial implications of quarantine and travel are also significant to teams."

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The 2021 Rugby World Cup is scheduled to kick off on September 18, with matches to be played at Waitakere Stadium, Northland Events Centre and Eden Park.