All the details of postponements across the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic
Rugby tournaments affected by coronavirus
The coronavirus pandemic has caused the postponement of most professional rugby union competitions as well as the community game. Here are the details of the decisions made by various organisers on how rugby tournaments affected by coronavirus…
Four men’s, six women’s and three U20 fixtures have been postponed due to the pandemic.
Italy v Scotland Women – due to take place in the north of Italy – was the first to be postponed. The three Ireland v Italy fixtures followed, then the three Italy v England matches on the final weekend, followed by the trio of France v Ireland games and finally Wales v Scotland men and women. Scotland U20 beat Wales in a match that was played behind closed doors.
Most postponements were due to health concerns relating to mass gatherings while Scotland Women’s final two matches need to be rescheduled after a player tested positive for Covid-19. She has now been released from hospital.
It has been mooted that the men’s Super Saturday fixtures – Wales v Scotland, Italy v England and France v Ireland – will be played on 31 October, but this has not be confirmed. There have been no concrete details on when any matches will be rescheduled, only that organisers are keen to complete the tournaments.
The Hong Kong and Singapore legs of the World Series were the first rugby events affected. They were due to be played in April but have now been rescheduled for October.
Subsequently, the London and Paris legs have been postponed, provisionally until September, and the women’s leg in Langford has been postponed until later in the year, as has the final World Sevens Challenger Series event.
U20 World Championship
This was due to take place in northern Italy in late June and July but has now been cancelled.
The Olympic Games, which were due to take place in Tokyo in late July and early August, have been postponed until 2021 – the first time the modern Olympics have been postponed. So the men’s and women’s rugby sevens events that are part of the tournament will now take place next summer.
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said: “I proposed to postpone for about a year and (IOC) president Thomas Bach responded with 100% agreement.”
The knockout stages of both the Champions and Challenge Cups, including the finals due to take place in Marseille on 22-23 May, have been postponed.
A statement from tournament said: “EPCR is working with league and union stakeholders on several scenarios for the rescheduling of both the Heineken Champions Cup and European Rugby Challenge Cup at such time as it is safe to do so.”
The English top flight is postponing the season for five weeks, until the end of April. That accounts for four rounds of league action, with the other weekend set aside for the European quarter-finals.
This cross-border competition features teams from Ireland, Italy, Scotland, South Africa and Wales, and matches involving Italian teams had already been postponed due to the severity of the outbreak in Italy.
Then on Thursday, 12 April, Pro14 organisers confirmed the season had been suspended indefinitely. The resumption of the league season is a matter of constant review, with the Pro14 acting under the latest guidance from all the local and national authorities.
The league have subsequently announced the competition will only resume when the following criteria can be met:
- Public Health Authorities cease to prohibit the resumption of sport and group training
- Travel restrictions between our territories are lifted
- No forced isolation or quarantine orders are in force when visiting our territories
- Player welfare is safeguarded, including requirement for a suitable pre-recommencement training period, to be established in conjunction with the high-performance personnel at our participating unions and teams
The final at Cardiff City Stadium, due to take place on 20 June, has also been cancelled. Should the season restart and a final be played, it will be hosted by the team with the highest ranking from this campaign.
If you have bought tickets for the final, keep an eye on pro14.rugby/final for details of getting a refund.
The southern hemisphere tournament, which includes teams from Argentina, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa, has been suspended for “the foreseeable future”.
The decision was made after the New Zealand government introduced a rule that all travellers arriving in the country would need to self-isolate for 14 days.
SANZAR chief executive Andy Marinos said: “We are extremely disappointed for the players, our fans, broadcasters and partners but given the complexity of our competition structure, and the multiple geographies that we cover, we have no other option but to align with such directives. We also believe it is time for all those players currently overseas to return home and to be with their families.”
SA Rugby have also suspended all national team training camps and business travel in response to the pandemic, while the SuperSport Challenge – due to kick off on 24-25 April – has been postponed until further notice.
Rugby Australia have postponed all community rugby – matches and training – until the first week of May.
Rugby Australia was planning a new domestic competition involving its four Super Rugby franchises and Western Force playing in a home-and-away format to start on 3 April. Matches would take place behind closed doors. However, this has now been put on hold until at least 1 May after the Australian government put more measures in place to try to limit the spread of coronavirus.
New Zealand’s five franchises were also expected to do the same and play each other in a domestic round-robin model, but the increasing of the coronavirus alert level in the country has seen all rugby suspended for the foreseeable future.
The Top 14 and ProD2 professional leagues in France have been suspended until at least 15 April, when the situation will be reviewed.
The French federation has suspended all amateur rugby in the country to try to prevent the spread of the virus.
Tyrrells Premier 15s and Greene King IPA Championship
Both these leagues – the women’s top division and the men’s second tier in England – fall under the RFU umbrella and have been suspended until 14 April, subject to continued review.
UK and Ireland community rugby
The IRFU was the first to announce it was suspending all domestic rugby activity – training and playing – from 12 March to 29 March following government advice. Subsequently, on Thursday 19 March, the union confirmed that the 2019-20 domestic season would conclude with immediate effect.
Cups that have reached a final fixture will be shared by finalists and there will no promotion or relegation in the five divisions of the men’s Energia All-Ireland League.
IRFU Director of Rugby Development Colin McEntee said: “These are challenging times for us all and we know clubs will be impacted by this directive, but we will look back at this season as one where we put the physical welfare of our rugby community above all else.”
Scottish Rugby and the WRU also suspended all rugby in Scotland and Wales respectively until late March, when the situation will be re-assessed.
Scottish Rugby has launched a £500,000 hardship fund to help clubs during the crisis – applications can be made via a form on the Scottish Rugby website from later this week.
The WRU will give all clubs an additional £1,000 to help during the panedemic, on top of the £100,000 already provided to flood-affected clubs. All WRU competitions have also been cancelled for the 2019-20 season, with no promotion or relegation in any league.
On Monday 16 March, the RFU suspended all rugby activity in England, including club training, league and cup matches, and rugby education courses until 14 April. Then on 20 March the RFU wrote to all clubs – bar those in the Gallagher Premiership – to confirm the end of the 2019-20 season. The governing body plan to announce what support it will give clubs and how/if league outcomes will be decided by mid-April.
The April issue of Rugby World magazine – focusing on a new generation of Six Nations stars – is out now.
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