There will be no test rugby for the world champion Black Ferns this year.
The New Zealand women’s side were due to play eight tests but New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has announced a three-match schedule in November at the conclusion of the domestic Farah Palmer Cup competition.
The top players will now play a Possibles versus Probables match in November from which a Black Ferns squad will be picked to play two games against the New Zealand Barabrians side.
The side’s last test was a 37-8 win over Australia in August last year.
With New Zealand due to host the World Cup a year from now NZR hopes to organise tests for the Black Ferns in April or May.
Black Ferns fullback Selica Winiata said while it wasn’t ideal preparation for next year’s tournament, they were happy to be playing when some of their rivals could not.
“It’s about being resilient. That’s the thing with the Black Ferns, when challenges get thrown at us, it’s how we react.
“New Zealand Rugby and the Black Ferns management have been really supportive, and they’ve come up with the next best thing.”
News of no 2020 test for the team came in the wake of confirmation of the men’s Rugby Championship and at least two Bledisloe Cup tests for the All Blacks against the Wallabies.
Winiata, though, said the circumstances were different for the women’s team, who were not all full-time professional players.
“When you’re looking at crossing borders, especially Australia, and needing to isolate two weeks either side, there goes a month straight away. For a lot of the girls that’s just not practical.
“On top of that, allowing the time to play the test matches. That’s probably the biggest thing that stands out between the women and men that make it a lot more difficult.”
Black Ferns coach Glenn Moore said the Covid-19 situation had delivered significant challenges for everyone.
“We’ll take the opportunity we have to assemble and make the most of the rugby we do have. The most important thing is to be ready for September next year and we are determined to have the most prepared team there.