This year's Women's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand is set to be postponed until 2022 because of continued uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
World Rugby cited the "challenging global COVID-19 landscape" in its recommendation to delay the tournament, scheduled for September 18 to October 16.
The recommendation will be considered by the Rugby World Cup board and World Rugby executive committee next week.
Register for Stan Sport now to watch every minute of Super Rugby AU. The new add-on Sport package is available for just $10 a month with customers able to get a 30-day free trial for a limited time only.
It said its decision had been made in consultation with stakeholders including New Zealand Rugby, the New Zealand government and participating unions.
"While appreciating the recommendation is extremely disappointing for teams and fans, it has their interests at heart, and gives the tournament the best opportunity to be all it can be for them, all New Zealanders and the global rugby family,"
World Rugby said in a statement."The recommendation is based on the evolution of the uncertain and challenging global COVID-19 landscape."Nine teams - New Zealand, Australia, Wales, Canada, the United States, England, France, South Africa and Fiji - have qualified for the 12-team tournament which is the first women's Rugby World Cup to be held in the southern hemisphere. Three more teams were to be found through qualifying."
World Rugby said it was clear from recent talks with stakeholders that "it is just not possible to deliver the environment for all teams to be the best that they can be on the sport's greatest stage."
In a video message, World Rugby acting chief executive Alan Gilpin said that while the decision would be "hugely disappointing to players and fans" it had been made with "players at heart."
"Rugby World Cup 2021 is the pinnacle of women's rugby and we are committed to provide the best conditions for players and teams to prepare fully and compete at their best," he said.
"Postponing the tournament to next year provides the best opportunity to do that."
Rugby Australia's General Manager of Women's Rugby, Jilly Collins, said: "It's disappointing news for both our team and the wider Rugby community.
“Ultimately, safety must be the number one priority. Furthermore, a tournament needs to be delivered that is fitting of the pinnacle event in the Women’s Rugby XVs calendar with all teams as best prepared as possible.
“We will regroup as a team at our training camp next week and our priority now is to work out our revised Test schedule for 2021.
“It goes without saying that the Wallaroos cannot wait to pull on the Gold jersey as soon as possible,” Collins said.
With 5 million people, New Zealand has recorded about 2,000 infections since the start of the pandemic, and 26 deaths.
Fresh coronavirus cases have emerged in the country more recently, however, with Auckland entering lockdown for the second time in a month last weekend.
New Zealand are the current women's world champions, having defeated England 41-32 in the final in Belfast in 2017.