Ireland women's 2021 World Cup hopes have been left in limbo after World Rugby confirmed that the qualifying tournament, which was due to take place in September, has been postponed.
Ireland's disastrous previous World Cup on home soil in 2017 meant that Adam Griggs's side have to qualify for next year's tournament, which is set be held in New Zealand.
A disappointing eighth-place finish left Ireland outside of the automatic qualifying places, and thus meant that in order to secure their place at next year's World Cup, they would have to enter a newly designed Rugby Europe tournament.
The players and coaches have been left in the dark since Covid-19 brought rugby to a standstill, but World Rugby has now confirmed that the crucial qualifying tournament has been postponed. A working group will consider "suitable alternative options".
Ireland have been making strides under Griggs, who replaced Tom Tierney as head coach following the 2017 World Cup.
Stalled However, this latest development means that their progress will be stalled even further.
The likes of Italy and Scotland, who Ireland beat in this year's curtailed Six Nations, would have provided competition in the Rugby Europe tournament.
Meanwhile, Warren Gatland has backed the potential moving of next year's Lions tour from the summer to the autumn.
Earlier this week, South Africa Rugby Union CEO Jurie Roux admitted that should World Rugby manage to align the global calendar in the coming months, the Lions tour could shift from its traditional summer slot.
The Lions are currently due to tour South Africa from July 3, 2021, but as discussions about merging the northern and southern hemisphere seasons continue, rugby's schedule could look very different next year.
Gatland, who will take charge of the Lions for a third consecutive tour, believes that his side would adapt to any changes, if it meant a smoother global calendar.
The 56-year-old former Ireland head coach, who is currently working in his native New Zealand, where he is preparing his Chiefs team for the start of Super Rugby Aotearoa tomorrow morning, is adamant that it is now or never for rugby and its hopes of sorting out the messy calendar.
"I think for us, the Lions, it's just being a little bit flexible. If we have to go back a month or so, then I think we can cope with that," he said.
The Chiefs will kick off rugby's return with a trip to Dunedin to take on the Highlanders tomorrow morning (8.05am on Sky Sports), while the Blues will host the Hurricanes in the early hours of Sunday (4.35am on Sky Sports).