New format, haka showcase for delayed women's Rugby World Cup

Auckland (AFP) –


Women's Rugby World Cup organisers announced a revamped format for the coronavirus-delayed tournament Wednesday, as hosts New Zealand unveiled the haka challenge they will perform at next year's showpiece.

World Rugby said more rest days and scheduling changes to scrap mid-week fixtures would help "super-charge" the women's game by ensuring players enjoyed the same tournament conditions as their male counterparts.

The event was originally set to take place in September-October this year but World Rugby announced in March that it was being delayed until 2022 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The governing body said Wednesday it would now be held from October 8 to November 12, 2022.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said the format changes would better showcase the women's game.

"While the postponement was disappointing for everyone, it has provided the unique opportunity to review every aspect of the event to ensure it is the best it can be for the players, fans around the world and the wonderful and enthusiastic New Zealanders," he said in a statement.

"Longer rest periods between matches for all teams is further commitment to delivering comprehensive player welfare standards."

The length of the tournament has been pushed out to 43 days from 35, allowing a minimum of five rest days between matches.

For the first time, all fixtures will be played at weekends, maximising exposure.

The final will be at Auckland's Eden Park on November 12, making it the first venue to host the decider of both the men's and women's tournaments.

New Zealand's national women's team, the Black Ferns, on Wednesday showcased their own version of the haka at an exhibition in Auckland.

Team captain Lesley Ketu said the fearsome Maori challenge would motivate the five-time World Cup winners as they defend their title on home soil for the first time.

"Hearing the words, feeling the strength, the unity of my teammates around me really does add an extra 20 percent to that black jersey," she said.

"It's a feeling like no other and something not all teams get to experience."