The 2021 Women’s Six Nations will be delayed – but organisers are aiming for a spring or summer start.
Full details are expected by the end of January, with the men’s Six Nations set to start as planned in February.
Ireland, Scotland and Italy’s Women’s Six Nations fixtures may double as 2021 World Cup qualification matches given none of the three have yet secured a place at the tournament.
The Under-20 Six Nations has also been delayed until later in 2021.
Like the women’s tournament, it would normally run at the same time as the men’s Six Nations.
The news comes after the Rugby Football Union told BBC Sport last week it had “concerns” about the tournament because of complications around planning, with England the only fully professional side in the tournament.
But organisers say they are “fiercely committed to the promotion and development of rugby at all levels, particularly the women’s game, where we see exciting opportunity for growth”.
With the men’s Six Nations currently set to go ahead on its original dates, despite concerns around French participation, it would give the women’s tournament an opportunity to finally step out of the men’s shadow.
Knock-on effect on Rugby World Cup 2021
The World Cup starts in New Zealand on 18 September and there are still three places to be filled, with 12 countries in contention to secure them.
There are six European countries trying to win places, with Spain, Russia and the Netherlands still needing to complete the 2020 Rugby Europe Championship.
The winner of this will join Italy, Ireland and Scotland in a European qualification tournament that was originally scheduled to take place in December 2020, but was postponed amid coronavirus concerns. The winner will get a place at the World Cup in Pool B, while the runner-up will have one last chance to qualify through the repechage.
Qualification in the rest of the world
The winner of the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship 2020 will also head to the World Cup and join Pool B. Hong Kong, Japan and Kazakhstan have been given dates in March to play this event in Hong Kong. The runner-up will head to the repechage.
Either Kenya or Colombia will also head into the repechage after a play-off match. Kenya earned their place in this game by coming second in the 2019 Rugby Africa Women’s Cup while Colombia were South America champions.
Samoa are to represent Oceania in the repechage.
World Rugby is yet to announce plans for all the unscheduled games, however moving so many predominately amateur teams across international borders will be complex.
It is thought that using world rankings to award the final places will be a back-up plan if all the fixtures cannot be completed.