DUBLIN (AFP) - The women's Six Nations rugby tournament has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, organisers said on Wednesday (Jan 13), while insisting the flagship men's version will go ahead as scheduled.
The organisers said they hoped the women's and the men's Under-20's competitions - which were due to be played in February and March - will be able to be played "later this spring or early summer".
With the women's teams largely being made up of amateurs - 2020 champions England are the only fully professional side whilst France are semi-professional - fitting them into a bubble for the tournament is extremely problematic if not impossible.
The previous women's Six Nations was also affected with the championship being brought to a premature halt last November due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The women's Rugby World Cup starts on Sept 18 in New Zealand but Ireland, Scotland or Italy have yet to qualify for the global event.
Britain has been one of the hardest hit globally by the virus outbreak, with more than 83,000 people losing their lives after testing positive for the Covid-19.
It is currently mired in its third, and worst, wave of the virus, registering record daily case numbers and death tolls blamed on a new strain of the disease.
"The dynamic nature of the external environment and the ongoing challenges it presents, particularly for sports and teams of amateur status, meant a collective agreement to push both championships to new later windows was prudent to ensure, where possible, that both competitions can be played safely and without interruption in 2021," read the Six Nations Rugby Limited's statement.
"It was also important that the decision was made in a timely manner to allow players and management to plan accordingly."
However, it remains confident the men's tournament will begin on Feb 6 as planned.
"Whilst closely monitoring the situation, Six Nations Rugby also confirms plans to stage the men's Six Nations Championship remain as scheduled," read the statement.
"Following the successful completion of the 2020 Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup, Six Nations Rugby is in constant dialogue with each of its governmental authorities and is further reinforcing its Covid-19 protocols."