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Covid chaos wreaks havoc in League One as numerous games cancelled

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Toru Hanai/Getty Images)

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Japan Rugby League One continues to be ravaged by Covid-19, with the competition forced to cancel almost half of its round three matches across three divisions.

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One of the round’s fixtures, a Division 1 clash between the Shizuoka Blue Revs – formerly known as Yamaha Jubilo – and Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath, had already been called off last week due to an outbreak of the virus in the Shizuoka squad.

That outbreak has prevented the Blue Revs from taking to the field at all this season, and now another four matches have been added to the scrapheap this weekend, three of which were Division 1 matches scheduled to take place on Saturday.

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On Thursday, it was announced the clash between the Toshiba Brave Lupus and Tokyo Black Rams had been canned due to a positive Covid case in the Black Rams squad, gifting Toshiba an automatic five competition points.

Suntory – who boast international stars such as Damian McKenzie, Samu Kerevi and Sean McMahon – were also handed five competition points to strengthen their lead at the summit of the Division 1 table to a four-point lead.

Elsewhere, Toyota Verblitz – headlined by Pieter-Steph du Toit, Patrick Tuipulotu and Kazuki Himeno – had their second match of the season cancelled as they were given five competition points after numerous Covid cases were reported in the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes squad.

That leaves Toyota in fourth place on the Division 1 standings, despite the fact their only two victories were default wins due to Covid and the only actual match they have played so far was a 50-8 thumping at the hands of Suntory last week.

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The other Division 1 clash impacted by Covid-enforced cancellations this week was the match between the Shining Arcs Tokyo-Bay Urayasu and NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu.

The Shining Arcs, whose key player is ex-Wallabies star Israel Folau, have picked up numerous Covid cases, handing the Green Rockets their second default bonus-point victory of the season to move into the top four.

Furthermore, in Division 3, the fixture between the Kurita Water Gush and Toyota Shuttles Industries has also been cancelled due to a number of Covid cases in the Kurita squad.

As such, only seven matches will take place across League One this weekend, two of which are Division 1 match-ups, including the first clash of the year for the reigning champion Saitama Wild Knights, who host the Yokohama Canon Eagles on Sunday.

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The only round three match in Division 1 that is still scheduled to go ahead as planned is Kobelco Kobe Steelers vs Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay at NOEVIR Stadium in Kobe on Saturday.

In Division 2, the Mitsubishi Sagamihara Dynaboars will host the Skyactivs Hiroshima in Minami-Ku on Saturday, as will the Hanazono Kintetsu Liners – spearheaded by Quade Cooper and Will Genia – against the Mie Honda Heat in Osaka.

On Sunday, ex-All Blacks pivot Brett Cameron will play his second match for the Kamaishi Seawaves against the Hino Red Dolphins in the only other Division 2 contest at Tokyo’s Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium.

Meanwhile, in Division 3, the Munakata Sanix Blues will host the Chugoku Red Regulions on Saturday before the Kyuden Voltex face the Shimizu Blue Sharks on Sunday.

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