England will have the chance to defend their Six Nations crown after tournament organisers announced a revised schedule to complete the remaining fixtures in this year’s Championship.
A third of games in the women’s competition were abandoned when the coronavirus pandemic hit back in March. The flurry of cancellations meant England, the only team unbeaten in the tournament, were denied the opportunity to defend their Grand Slam title in their final fixture against Italy in Padua.
That game has been rescheduled to take place on October 31, a week after the Championship resumes on October 24, when Scotland take on France and Ireland face Italy in Round 4. Venues for all six remaining women’s fixtures are expected to be announced at a later date.
News of the revised schedule will be a huge relief for home unions, whose preparations for next year's World Cup in New Zealand have stalled in the wake of the pandemic.
With just one fixture of the Championship left to complete, the Rugby Football Union is working on plans to stage a home and away fixture against France this autumn in a bid to secure extra game time ahead of women's rugby's showpiece tournament, which starts on September 18, 2021.
Ben Morel, the chief executive of the Six Nations, said: “Whilst the past few months have been extremely challenging, we have always remained hopeful of concluding this year’s tournament and we are really looking forward to the final games in the men’s and women’s Championships. There is still so much to play for, and we are hugely excited for what lies ahead.
“Public health remains the No 1 priority and while we must continue to be vigilant and cognisant of the dynamic and fast-changing external environment, we are nonetheless extremely pleased to be moving in the right direction.”
In a statement, Six Nations said: “In rescheduling these matches, the health and safety of players, associated staff and supporters has been at the forefront of our thinking.
“We remain in close contact with all relevant authorities across the respective jurisdictions to ensure these matches take place in a safe environment and we will announce further details of health-and-safety protocols and guidance on spectator attendance in due course.”