Uncertainty for Ireland Women as Rugby Europe suspends games

It’s unclear if the World Cup Qualifying competition in December will be affected.

RUGBY EUROPE HAS announced the suspension of all games under its remit until the end of November due to “the resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic across Europe”.

The suspensions include the Women’s Rugby Europe Championship, the winner of which was in line to play against Ireland in a World Cup Qualifying competition in December.

Ireland Women have not yet qualified for the 2021 World Cup in New Zealand but hope to secure their spot by winning the European Qualifier competition, currently scheduled for December.

ireland-players-stand-for-the-national-anthem Ireland Women are due to play in a World Cup Qualifying competition in December. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Scotland and Italy will join Ireland in that Qualifier, while the winner of the Rugby Europe Championship was due to be the fourth team.

However, with the two remaining 2020 Rugby Europe Championship games – both involving favourites Spain – now suspended, it’s unclear if the World Cup Qualifier will go ahead as planned in December.

Spain were due to play Russia this Saturday, 24 October, and then face the Netherlands on 31 October in the remaining Rugby Europe Championship fixtures.

Given that they are the highest-ranked of the three nations, Spain had been favourites to win the Rugby Europe Championship and advance into the Qualifier to take on Ireland, Italy, and Scotland.

Rugby Europe says it is in discussions with World Rugby regarding the Qualifier and that an announcement will be made in due course.

The pool draw for the 2021 World Cup is also due to take place in New Zealand this December. 

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Ireland have more immediate targets in mind anyway, with their rescheduled Six Nations clash with Italy taking place this Saturday evening behind closed doors at Energia Park. 

Adam Griggs’ side will then travel to Lille to take on France in their final 2020 Six Nations fixture on Sunday 1 November.

They will hope for clarity on the European Qualifier thereafter, with match weekends in that round-robin competition pencilled in for 5, 12, and 19 December.

Meanwhile, Rugby Europe’s announcement means the last round of the men’s Rugby Europe Championship [REC] has also been suspended, ensuring Georgia will miss out on their clash with Russia as they begin preparations for competing in the new Autumn Nations Cup next month.

With the Romania v Belgium and Spain v Portugal ties suspended, the Netherlands’ chance to be promoted into the REC has also been postponed. The Netherlands are waiting to face the bottom-ranked team in the REC for a chance at moving up a tier.

The opening games of the 2020/2021 Rugby Europe Trophy – the third tier of European competition underneath the Six Nations and REC – Lithuania v Ukraine and Ukraine v Poland, have also been suspended.

“Despite the creation of the Return to Play Protocol, we have to suspend our competitions to preserve the health of our players and our officials who are mostly ‘amateurs’,” said Octavian Morariu, the president of Rugby Europe.

“We cannot expose them to the virus or to quarantine periods that would be problematic for them. We still have to be patient before we can organize our competitions in the best conditions.”

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