Rugby: New 2020 schedule announced for Black Ferns

NZ Rugby has confirmed a revised three-match Black Ferns schedule in November.

The reigning world champions' original eight-test slate in 2020 has been abandoned, with Rugby Australia unable to send a Wallaroos team across the Tasman, due to the financial strains of COVID-19.

Instead, a Possibles v Probables selection trial is scheduled for Saturday, November 7, followed by two games against an NZ Barbarians selection on November 14 & 21. Venues and kick-off times will be confirmed in the coming weeks.

The cancellation of their tests against Australia deals a significant blow to preparations for their World Cup defence on home soil in September next year, leaving the team with no international rugby in 2020.

Seven Black Ferns fixtures were to be played at home, including doubleheaders alongside the All Blacks at Dunedin and Wellington, with an overseas test scheduled for Melbourne's Marvel Stadium as part of a third doubleheader.

Their last test match was against the Wallaroos at Eden Park last August, which they won 38-7.

But NZ Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson says contingency planning is underway to ensure the team is primed to defend their title next year.

"We're committed to having the Black Ferns play in front of our local fans as we build up to next year’s Rugby World Cup," says Robinson.

"The opening rounds of the Farah Palmer Cup have been a good indicator of the outstanding quality of rugby we can expect from these three matches."

Most women players are semi-professional, which presents plenty of additional challenges, Robinson adds.

"COVID-19 has caused a range of unique complexities for the international women’s game," he says. "Many players balance work commitments with rugby, so for many teams, extended periods away from their home countries to play international rugby is tough.

"The financial implications of quarantine and travel are also significant to teams."

Head coach Glenn Moore insists Black Ferns hopefuls will have plenty at stake, as they try to prove themselves worthy of World Cup selection.

"We'll take the opportunity we have to assemble and make the most of the rugby we do have," Moore says. "The most important thing is to be ready for September next year and we are determined to have the most prepared team there.

"We've had some really good training camps already this year, and the talent the coaches and I are seeing in the Farah Palmer Cup is impressive. We will have some tough decisions on our hands."