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Hitch hits new Japanese league with opening match scrapped due to Covid

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

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With the inaugural season of Japan’s Rugby League One due to kick off this weekend, the Japanese Rugby Football Union would have been hoping to get through at least one round of action before the pandemic forced any fixture rearrangements.

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That’s not been the case, unfortunately, with the JRFU confirming today that the opening game between Kubota Spears and last year’s champions, Saitama Wild Knights, has been cancelled due to positive Covid cases in the Wild Knights’ camp.

Six positive cases have already been confirmed while a further three players or management were also under examination. The remaining players are also treated as close contacts and with less than 48 hours until kick-off, the League One administrators have determined that the match could not go ahead.

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Under Covid guidelines, Kubota have been awarded a bonus point win for the match.

There are five other matches scheduled for the top flight of the competition for the opening round:

  • Kobelco Kobe Steelers v Shining Arcs Tokyo-Bay Urayasu
  • Green Rockets Tokatsu v Yokohama Canon Eagles
  • Tokyo Sungoliath v Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo
  • Toyota Verblitz v Shizuoka Blue Revs
  • NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes Osaka v Black Rams Tokyo

 

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The understandable cancellation of the opening match has further marred the kick-off of the new competition, which replaces the Top League, after NEC Green Rockets player Blake Ferguson was arrested for the possession of cocaine.

While there was the possibility that the Green Rockets’ match against Canon Eagles was called off due to the arrest, the game is still set to go ahead – provided that Covid doesn’t cause any further issues.

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