COVID restrictions for returning players have forced Hong Kong and Samoa to withdraw from next month's World Cup qualifier in Dubai.
In a statement release by World Rugby today it was announed that Hong Kong and Samoa would be unable to take part in next month's World Cup qualifier:
It is with great disappointment that as a result of insurmountable logistical challenges caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, World Rugby and the Hong Kong and Samoa Unions can confirm the withdrawal of their women’s 15s teams’ participation in two upcoming tournaments in Dubai.
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, while Samoa will no longer be attending the Final Qualification Tournament.
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.
World Rugby Chairman, Sir Bill Beaumont, said: “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.
“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.”
Following consultation with the participating unions on the necessary revisions to the format of the Final Qualification Tournament next month, World Rugby can confirm the following:
- The Asia Rugby Women’s Championship will no longer take place and Kazakhstan will automatically qualify for the Final Qualification Tournament
- The bottom two ranked teams (Kazakhstan and Colombia) will now play in a semi-final on 19 February, 2022 at 16:30 local time
- The winner of Kazakhstan v Colombia will play Scotland in the final on 25 February, 2022 at 19:00 local time
- The winner of the final will secure the last remaining spot for Rugby World Cup 2021