Langford-based Rugby Canada was left to deal with baffling mixed messaging as World Rugby recommended the postponing of the 2021 women’s World Cup to next year in New Zealand.
Canadian XVs head coach Sandro Fiorino would have to re-configure his preparation plans. But as interim head coach of the Canadian sevens team, Fiorino is continuing to prepare that group at Westhills Stadium and Goudy Field for the Tokyo Olympics this summer. The IOC and Japanese government say the Tokyo Games, already postponed from 2020, will be held July 23 to Aug. 8. The Canadian men’s sevens team is also preparing in Langford for the Tokyo Olympics.
As strange as it seems to have the World Cup postponed while Olympic rugby sevens proceeds this year, the XVs players are taking it in stride. Canadian women’s XVs team player Sophie De Goede of Victoria was disappointed but understanding about the World Cup delay.
“We are gutted to hear of the news,” said the Oak Bay High School grad and Castaway Wanderers product.
“But we understand the decision has been made in the best interest of the health and safety of all players, staff and public involved,” added De Goede, from England, where she plays pro for Saracens.
“We are now potentially a year and a half out from the World Cup, so we’ll reset and refocus on our preparation with the new dates in mind.”
The national governing body expressed similar sentiments.
“Rugby Canada is very disappointed at today’s recommendation to postpone Rugby World Cup 2021,” tweeted Rugby Canada chair Tim Powers.
“But we support the position of World Rugby to put participant safety at the forefront of the decision-making process.”
As understandable as any decision made for safety is during the pandemic, it doesn’t make it any easier to digest.
“This announcement is especially difficult for our athletes and team staff who have committed so much time and effort to being prepared for Rugby World Cup 2021,” added Powers.
The final decision will be made at the World Rugby executive committee meeting March 8-9.
“If the decision is ultimately made to postpone the tournament, Rugby Canada will fully support our national women’s XVs team in developing new preparation timelines to ensure we are ready to compete against the world’s best in 2022,” said Powers.
Canada is ranked No. 3 in the world and is a serious threat for the World Cup podium.
The World Cup was scheduled for Sept. 18 to Oct. 16, just when the effects of the vaccine rollouts will start to be truly felt and many sports are expected to open up.
And New Zealand has done among the best jobs in the world of controlling the pandemic.
“We realize the decision will be hugely disappointing for players and fans alike,” said Alan Gilpin, interim chief executive of World Rugby.
“We really believe it is the right recommendation. Due to the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, it’s too difficult to guarantee adequate preparation time for all teams in advance of their arrival into New Zealand. We want this tournament to be all it can be and that’s why we believe this recommendation is right and we can assure all players and all New Zealanders that we will give everything to deliver a spectacular and best-ever World Cup next year and to reward their patience and dedication.”