New dates have been confirmed for the postponed Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2021 in New Zealand, which will now take place from October 8 to November 12 next year in Auckland and Whangārei.
The new schedule increases the period of the finals from the original proposed time of 35 days to 43 days in order to prioritise player welfare by enabling five-day minimum rests between matches, in alignment with the men’s tournament.
World Rugby has also unveiled new tournament brandmarks retaining reference to 2021, the year the tournament was originally intended to take place, while conveying to fans and audiences that the tournament will now be played in 2022.
The ninth edition of the RWC for women, postponed in March this year due to continuing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, will be the first to be held in the southern hemisphere.
On August 21 2019, World Rugby announced that gender designations would be removed from the title of the women's World Cup.
All World Cup tournaments from 2021, whether for men or women, will be officially called the Rugby World Cup with a year designation.
The extension of the tournament window also allows for a revamped tournament format that will see all matches take place on Saturdays and Sundays, with no overlap, meaning fans will not miss any of the action.
With the tournament starting later in the year, players and fans will benefit from warmer weather and longer daylight hours.
The pool phase will be played on the weekends of October 8 to 9, 15 to 16 and 22 to 23 at Eden Park, Northlands Events Centre in Whangārei and Waitakere Stadium.
The quarter-finals will take place from October 29 to 30 followed by semi-finals on Saturday November 5.
“What’s emerging is a great schedule for the players, a fantastic schedule for fans who are going to be in New Zealand and a great schedule for international fans watching the broadcast."— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) May 11, 2021
🏆 @WorldRugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin on confirmation of RWC 2021 dates in 2022 pic.twitter.com/JAcOc36FfU
The bronze final and RWC 2021 final will be played on Saturday November 12, with Eden Park set to create history by becoming the first stadium to host both the men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup finals.
A detailed match schedule and broadcast timings will be announced at a later date.
A bespoke te reo Māori version of the new brandmark has also been designed for tournament promotion in New Zealand.
This reflects the importance of te reo as an official language of Aotearoa, New Zealand and to signify the desire to celebrate the unique Māori culture for all those connected with the tournament.
World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: "We are fully committed to accelerating the women’s game at all levels and while the postponement was disappointing for everyone, it has provided the unique opportunity to review every aspect of the event to ensure it is the best it can be for the players, fans around the world and the wonderful and enthusiastic New Zealanders.
"Longer rest periods between matches for all teams is further commitment to delivering comprehensive player welfare standards at RWC 2021."
International Rugby Players appointee to the RWC Board Melodie Robinson said: "While it’s disappointing that the 2021 tournament had to be postponed, the positive is that we’ve been able to ensure the 2022 event and subsequent Rugby World Cups will have a minimum five-day turnaround for players.
"Just like the men’s tournament, this will hopefully help to level the playing field for all sides and see an increase in competitive matches."
In a commitment to delivering an outstanding Rugby World Cup 2021, playing in 2022, earlier this year World Rugby announced a £2 million ($2.8 million/€2.3 million) funding package to support a Rugby World Cup 2021 high performance preparation and competition programme for qualified teams and teams still competing in the qualification process.
The programme will focus on providing teams with additional monetary support to deliver additional team training camps and coordinating international competition to give them the greatest opportunity to be at their best in New Zealand next year.
Further details will be announced at a later stage.