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Tuesday Mar 17, 2020

How 2020's major rugby competitions are affected by the Coronavirus outbreak

The quarter finals of the Champions Cup has officially been postponed by tournament organisers, it has been announced. That follows in the wake of most of the major club and international fixtures also being cancelled or postponed as the outbreak of COVID-19 continues to take its toll.

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The European fixtures had been due to take place on the opening weekend of April, but will now not happen. Organisers have not stated when they believe the matches will take place, instead opting to provide more information when it is available.

As the world of sport faces widespread cancellations and postponements, what is the status of the rest of the competitions?

Six Nations to Resume in October

The main competition in the Northern Hemisphere has experienced postponements in its calendar before. The UK Foot and Mouth outbreak delayed the 2001 tournament until September, with Ireland denied a Grand Slam after defeat away to Scotland.

This year’s edition looks to be a similar situation, with four games (Ireland v Italy, Italy v England, France v Ireland and Wales v Scotland) rescheduled for the end of October.

It’s worse for the Women’s 6 Nations as six of their games have been postponed as well. It is unclear as yet when the rescheduled matches will take place but with a reduced summer and autumn international fixture list, it may be an easier task.

Super Rugby Postponed Indefinitely

Just seven rounds of the Super Rugby season have taken place so far, but the campaign has been “suspended” indefinitely. The Jaguares-Highlanders match that had been due to take place on Sunday was cancelled, with SANZAR CEO Andy Marinos standing by his call to pause the campaign.

In a statement, he said: “SANZAAR does not take this decision lightly, but after consulting widely with key stakeholders, the SANZAAR Executive Committee has taken the necessary step to cancel the scheduled fixture with the players and team management health and welfare paramount,” he said.

It leaves Super Rugby facing a potentially contentious end to the season, should the tournament not restart. Currently, the Sharks are top of the table and may be crowned champions if the season is ultimately finished early.

Guinness Premiership, PRO 14 and France’s Top 14 all affected

The organisers of the Pro14 announced last week that it was postponing the league season “indefinitely” with chairman David Jordan stating: “We have made this decision with everyone’s welfare foremost in our minds. With an evolving situation in the five countries that take part, it is important to make a clear decision in keeping with the advice of the various governments involved.”

The RFU has also announced that the Gallagher Premiership, and all rugby in England, will be suspended for five weeks due to the outbreak of the virus, in order to comply with government guidelines on mass gatherings in England.

“We are sorry to tell our fans that we will be postponing our season for five weeks, in line with today’s advice of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which confirmed that the government would no longer support mass gatherings,” Premiership Rugby said in a statement on Monday.

In France, the Top 14 has been halted in a similar way, with the French Government this week electing to crack down on mass gatherings and travel in the country for the next 15 days. This means that all rugby competition in France has been postponed, including the Top 14, Pro D2 and all amateur leagues.

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So far, one player from Stade Français and another from Pro D2 side Cannes have tested positive for the virus.

Other major competitions either cancelled or postponed

* The Singapore and Hong Kong legs of the World Rugby Sevens Series have been postponed from April to October.

* Rugby Europe announced a suspension of all its matches and tournaments from March 13-April 15.

* Major League Rugby in the USA has also come to a halt, officially postponed for 30 days.

* Rugby Australia locked down its headquarters to be disinfected after two members of the national rugby sevens programme were tested for the virus.

* South African Rugby suspended all national team training camps until April 14.

Recommended viewing: The Breakdown show from New Zealand

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