The Japan Rugby Top League has decided to cancel their season as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, meaning they will have no final standings for the season.
The announcement sees Japan Rugby cancel 42 matches in a bid to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.
The news represents a major development as leagues all around the globe are faced with difficult decisions in terms of completing their seasons.
The COVID-19 outbreak has already forced Super Rugby, Top14, the Pro14 and the Gallagher Premiership to suspend their seasons amid growing uncertainty in the sporting calendar.
While most of those leagues are reportedly optimistic about their chances of completing their seasons at a later date, the decision made by Japan Rugby to cancel their league could spark a knock-on effect.
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In a statement, league organisers said the step was taken with three main viewpoints in mind.
The statement read:
“Given the current status of Novel Coronavirus (COVID019) and expanding infections, the Japan Rugby Top League (JRTL) has decided to cancel all matches of Round 11 and after in the 2020 season as well as this year’s tournament itself.
“JRTL has reached to the decision from the following three viewpoints;
1. To secure the health and safety of spectators, players and staffs.
2. Following the rapid global spread of the virus, the governments of many various countries including New Zealand and Australia have advised their citizens in overseas to return to their home countries immediately, which mean that many of foreign players in the Top League will return to their homes.
3. All the top league clubs are participating and operating in the league as company sport clubs and it would cause a significant adverse impact on the companies, if any players and/or team staffs are infected.
“Since the Japan Rugby Top League 2020 has been cancelled in the middle of its season and will not be completed, there will be no final standing. Thus, the four participating teams to the 57th Japan Rugby Championship, which currently is scheduled to be held from Saturday May 23rd, will be determined in an alternative way. Further information will be announced as soon as it is confirmed.”
Given the current status of COVID-19 and expanding infections, the Japan Rugby Top League has decided to cancel all matches of Round 11 and after in the 2020 season as well as this year’s tournament itself.
For more information, please see below. https://t.co/azsFo4Hi8e
— Japan Rugby (@JRFURugby) March 23, 2020
A number of Top League players have already been allowed to return to their home countries to be with their families.
Before the announcement, former Wallaby Matt Giteau, who plays for Suntory Sungoliath, had taken to social media to ask league officials to act quickly on making a decision regarding finishing the season.
“There are more important things than rugby right now,” Giteau wrote on Twitter.
“I love living and playing here in Japan, but not to the point of being excluded from Australia far from my family until June.”
Japan Rugby Top League Chairman, Osamu Ota, said;
“It was a tough decision to make but, given the global infection risk of the coronavirus, we have decided to cancel all matches of Japan Rugby Top League 2020 as all fans and players are our highest priority and the safety and security of the clubs and related parties must be secured. While we are very sorry for all fans, players and officials who have been looking forward to the resumption of the league, we appreciate your kind understanding.
“We sincerely hope that the current coronavirus spread situation gets under control soon and will look for an appropriate way of the new tournament toward the Japanese Rugby Championship in May with considering the social circumstances. We very much appreciate for your continued support to the Japan Rugby Top League.”
Watch: COVID-19’s impact on the immediate future of rugby in New Zealand.
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