It’s still a very patchy outlook for women’s rugby
The first nation to get started again, New Zealand, received a blow when the Black Ferns’ one remaining test match with Australia was called off, The Wallaroos could not accept the quarantine terms needed to make the trip. It means the Ferns will have played no internationals this year. This decision reminds them both of their geographical isolation and the precarious nature of future fixtures..
In Australia there are bans on movement between states, so travel restrictions are far more limiting. The Wallaroos are yet another team whose World Cup preparations are being held up by the current plague. The news that three of their great Sevens players, Charlotte Caslick, Ellia Green and Evania Pelite, have opted to switch to Rugby League for the interim reminds us of the secondary position Rugby Union holds in the country.
New Zealand’s authorities hunted around for possible replacement fixtures, in vain. The islands of Oceania are keeping themselves strictly to themselves for fear of contagion. Beyond them, worthwhile opponents lie thousands of miles away.
The irony is that the Black Ferns had scheduled more tests than usual this year to prepare themselves for their World Cup. Past history shows us that they haven’t needed them to reach the pinnacle of the game.
This empty schedule serves as a disquieting reminder for two important figures in New Zealand: Cate Sexton, Head of Women’s rugby development, and Michelle Hooper, Tournament Director of the RWC 2021, that at some stage in the New Year they will have to reach a decision about the biggest show in women’s rugby.
As a huge irony Australia Women are due to meet New Zealand Women in a series of T20 cricket matches in Brisbane starting this weekend. But host players from Victoria and New South Wales have to undergo a two-week quarantine in advance.
France were the first major European nation to get women’s club rugby up and running. Players were delighted to set foot on the field again after six months. Several clubs started with friendlies to ease players back sensibly. But once the Championship got under way, troubles weren’t hard to find.
In the second round of games four out of eight were postponed. Stade Toulousain suffered a setback when a junior player tested positive for coronavirus. Sixty players were found to have been in contact with her, so rigid restrictions came into force. Subsequently all the tests proved negative.
As could be expected, the effects of the pandemic varied from region to region. Pool 4 of Elite 1 for example has suffered a series of postponements.
The FFR has since altered its rulings. From now on, only the player who is tested positive or is suspected of infection has to be isolated, not all her contacts. That should help ease the unfolding of the newly framed Elite 1 programme.
Would other authorities be happy with that change of attitude? Possibly not.
In England Covid-19 has added to uncertainties that have circulated since before it started:
When will the Premier 15s find a sponsor?
Both the RFU’s CEO and its Commercial Director had expressed great optimism earlier in the year.
When will the new Red Rose contracts be announced? Who will receive them?
They were due last month. No surprise that they are being held over, but players just outside the elite squad are the ones most affected by the delay. When and how can they make their mark? The simplest answer is from 10 October, the Premier 15s start-date everyone hopes can be honoured.