Global Rapid Rugby organisers are hoping the newly-announced China-based team can be retained for the inaugural season despite the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Last week, Andrew Forrest’s new rugby union competition announced that the Shanghai-based China Lions would be the sixth and final team for the 2020 debut of the $1 million GRR.
But one day later, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that people who have visited or transited through mainland China would be banned from visiting Australia.
Other countries are following suit with their own travel bans as the world attempts to contain the coronavirus.
GRR is set to kick off on March 13, and organisers have been busy coming up with alternative plans in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Continue reading below…
Mark Evans, chief executive of GRR, is hopeful that the China Lions and the Hong Kong-based South China Tigers can be kept in the competition.
Their home games are set to be switched to later in the tournament, with organisers hopeful the coronavirus will be better contained by then to allow travel to and from China.
If the situation worsens, GRR might have to base the Lions outside of China for the first season.
“These are uncharted waters,” Evans said.
“We’ve run another schedule whereby we push the first game, to be played in Shanghai, out further into the comp. So that’s one contingency.
“The other is you look at whether you take the team and put them in a less restricted, hard-hit area. You have to look at all of those, and we are.
“We’re spending a lot of time mapping out different scenarios and different contingencies depending on how the situation develops.”
Despite only one of the four franchises being victorious, collectively the Australian performances indicate the @wallabies could field a strong side in 2020, writes @ArgyleSport. #SuperRugby https://t.co/KpB1tqcF4r
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 3, 2020
Evans is still optimistic the competition will go ahead.
But given the unpredictable nature of the coronavirus outbreak, he knows there can be no iron-clad guarantees.
Making the job slightly easier for GRR is the fact that a large part of the Lions and Tigers squads will be made up from players based outside of China.
The other teams to compete in the competition are the Western Force, Malaysia Valke, Fijian Latui, and Manuma Samoa.
Sonny Bill Williams’ Toronto Wolfpack debut has ended in defeat:
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now