By Alison Donnelly
The New Zealand Rugby Union has reacted to criticism that it is sidelining womens rugby by announcing a regional tournament for the countrys top 100 players in Rotorua in April to be played in front of the Black Ferns coaches. The competition will replace the planned tour of Canada and the women's NPC - both of which were axed in recent months.
The planned two test series against Canada was due to take place next month and would have served as Black Ferns big preparation for the World Cup after their own union decided to cancel this years NPC on financial grounds.
Some days ago, Canada released a statement saying that the decision to cancel their trip was mutual. However privately a memo was sent to the Canadian players stating that the cancellation was due to a decision in New Zealand to forgo the fixtures due to budget constraints and the desire to focus on internal competitions. New Zealand say they had budgeted for the tour.
Whatever the reason, the tour cancellation leaves the world champion Black Ferns without any meaningful test build-up to the World Cup.
Neil Sorensen, General Manager of Professional Rugby, NZRU told scrumqueens.com that the tour would be replaced with a regional competition.
The NZRU had planned and budgeted the Black Ferns to play Canada in a two test series in New Zealand in April 2010.
However, this tour was always subject to confirmation from Rugby Canada that they were able to include in their preparation for the Womens Rugby World Cup, a tour to New Zealand.
Ultimately, the confirmation sought could not be achieved within the timeframe required to make all necessary arrangements for the tour to proceed.
Together with the coaches, we have decided that the Black Ferns World Cup preparation will now include on a regional competition and camp in Rotorua next month. About 100 players from around the country will get an opportunity to play in front of the Black Ferns coaches and vie for a black jersey.