This weekend's opening fixtures had been expected to feature a showpiece clash between All Blacks Beauden Barret and Kieran Read Photo: AFP/File
rugby union

Japan's Top League rugby on hold over coronavirus outbreak

By Behrouz MEHRI

Japan's Top League rugby was put on hold Tuesday after scores of players tested positive for the coronavirus, the latest setback for sport in the country just six months before the Tokyo Olympics.

The postponement of the Top League, which features stars including All Blacks Beauden Barrett and Kieran Read, comes during a surge in cases which has prompted a state of emergency in Tokyo and other parts of Japan.

Sixty-seven cases have now been reported by the Top League, which was due to start on Saturday. Officials have not identified those who tested positive, or said how many are players or staff.

"It's really sad that we have to postpone the Top League just days before the opener," Japan Rugby Football Union chairman Kensuke Iwabuchi told an online news conference. "It's disappointing for the players and teams as well, because we've all been working hard to start the season on this date. But everything has changed in the last few days."

Postponing the season is an escalation from Tuesday, when two games were cancelled after 46 cases came to light at four clubs.

Top League officials said they hope to start playing in early February and complete the season as scheduled on May 23, possibly under a new, more condensed competition format.

However, they cannot rule out a late finish which could affect Japan's national team, who are due to play the British and Irish Lions in Edinburgh on June 26.

"Things are changing day by day, so we need to be very flexible," said Top League chairman Osamu Ota. "We need to identify who have come into close contact with those infected and decide how long they should be kept away from the group. There are various factors that we need to consider in rescheduling the season."

Japan's spike in cases has raised fresh concerns about the postponed Olympics, which are due to start in July.

As in other countries, sport in Japan has been badly disrupted by the coronavirus. Attendances are currently capped at 5,000 people or half capacity, whichever is lower.

© 2021 AFP

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

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67 players and staff infected with an unknown number of people they may have been in contact with. I am guessing the "top league" has failed to establish a bubble for the players and this is the result.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Yeah well..nothing to see here ..full steam ahead for the Olympics juggernaut.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Predictable. Japan's half-hearted efforts are no match for the virus. The usual last-minute cancelations and apologies will set the model for the Olympics. Would be interested to know their testing rate.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Inept management across the board. Almost every other country with professional sports has established bubbles and PLAYED matches. In tre Japanese lets suck wind through our teeth and wait fashion Osamu Ota and company have knocked this ball on again.

Amy potential momentum left from RWC2019 has well and truly been kicked out on the full and the ball has been lost in a sea of leaderless blazer wearers.

How will Kieran Read clash with Beaden Barrett? They play different roles and it's extremely unlikely that they will even get near each other. Sometimes the hype merchants need to chill out.

Bugger I was hoping for some local rugby.

Super Rugby Australia please don't screw it up. If Covid breaks out again go into bubbles and stay there.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

and the Olymprics is full steam ahead ...............................................laughable if not so real.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Only because sportspeople are tested regularly. Sumo also loads of positives, and talentos -- all can get tested easily. For the rest of us, forgedaboudit.

One thing this does show you though: the virus is rife here now.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

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