This year's women's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand has been officially postponed until 2022.
Last week, a recommendation was made to the Rugby World Cup board and the World Rugby executive committee to delay the event - scheduled to begin September 18 - due to ongoing complications caused by COVID-19.
Having discussed those concerns with New Zealand Rugby and the NZ Government, World Rugby announced its decision on Wednesday (NZ time), citing "continued impact and insurmountable uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic".
The committee also announced it will fund a "high performance preparation and competition programme" for all of the teams involved in the tournment - both qualified or still competing for qualification - to provide them with international play in the lead-up to the tournament.
"Our hearts go out to all the players, team personnel and fans who were preparing and looking forward to Rugby World Cup 2021 this year," says World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont.
"We recognise that they will be extremely disappointed, but I would like to assure them that the decision to postpone has been made entirely in the interests of their welfare, well-being and preparation and the desire to put on a showcase tournament that will super-charge women’s rugby globally.
"Given the number of athletes and personnel arriving from numerous locations, recent COVID-19 developments mean that it is simply not possible to guarantee optimal conditions for all teams to prepare for their pinnacle event, with continued uncertainties regarding training and match preparation.
"A Rugby World Cup is the best of the best, for the best of the best, and as we have seen in recent weeks, emergence of COVID-19 variants and ongoing lockdowns show that it is still a fragile global environment."
Dates for the new tournament - which will be played in Auckland and Whangarei - will be confirmed shortly.
"The top players in the women’s game should be guaranteed the stage that they deserve, with the opportunity for their family and friends to be able to attend, and also the wider national and international rugby family," Beaumont continues.
"Postponement by a year should enable us to enjoy the benefits of the global vaccination programme, easing the burden on international travel requirements and within New Zealand itself.
"I would like to thank New Zealand Rugby and the New Zealand Government for their support. We will continue to strive to ensure all the conditions are in place for the greatest of Rugby World Cups and I know that all New Zealanders will play their full part."
The Black Ferns are the current holders of the women's Rugby World Cup, after beating England in the final in Ireland in 2017.