SCOTLAND’S route to the 2022 World Cup in New Zealand (between 8th October and 22nd November) has been simplified to one winner-takes-all game after the withdrawal of Hong Kong and Samoa from the qualifying process due to “insurmountable logistical challenges caused by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic”.
Hong Kong will no longer be participating in the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship which was due to act as a feeder event for the Rugby World Cup 2021 Final Qualification Tournament in Dubai next month, while Samoa will no longer be attending that Final Qualification Tournament.
The original plan had been for a four-team round-robin tournament featuring Scotland (Europe), Samoa (Oceania), Colombia (Americas) and either Hong Kong or Kazakhstan (Asia) with the top team progressing to the World Cup. A new format has now been introduced which involves Kazakhstan now automatically progressing to the Final Qualifying Tournament where they will play Colombia in a one-off semi-final for the right to face Scotland on 25th February for that last remaining qualifying spot.
“Despite an exhaustive effort by all parties, including discussions with relevant authorities, ultimately the combination of the dynamic nature of the pandemic, lockdown restrictions in Hong Kong, challenges regarding re-entry into Samoa – which includes a six-month return moratorium for anyone who tests positive outside of the country – and uncertainty of available MIQ places for the 26 Samoan players returning to New Zealand, mean that both teams are presently unable to travel to Dubai,” said a statement issued by World Rugby.
“Our thoughts go out to the players and management who have worked tirelessly in preparation for this tournament and we would like to reassure them that every avenue was explored in attempt to find a solution to this unique and challenging situation,” said World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont.
“The health and wellbeing of players, staff and spectators continues to be our number one priority as we continue to navigate the dynamic and complex nature of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In collaboration with both Samoa and Hong Kong rugby unions, taking the appropriate measures that mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in line with the relevant authorities is paramount and has underpinned our decision making throughout the duration of the pandemic thus far.
“We remain committed to delivering a safe Final Qualification Tournament for the remaining participating unions and will be working closely with Hong Kong and Samoa to ensure the best-possible 2022 campaign for their women’s 15s teams.”