World Rugby Sevens events in Asia postponed over coronavirus
World Rugby, the international governing body for rugby union, has postponed the Singapore and Hong Kong legs of the World Rugby Sevens Series because of the coronavirus outbreak in Asia.
World Rugby said the decision was made “in response to continued health concerns relating to the novel coronavirus outbreak”
Bill Beaumont, World Rugby chairman, said: “The wellbeing of the rugby family and wider public is our priority and the decision to reschedule has been made in full consultation with the Hong Kong Rugby Union, Sort Singapore, unions and national authorities.”
As of Thursday, the death toll from coronavirus has risen past 1,300, with nearly 600,000 reported cases in China, where the outbreak originated. The World Health Organisation has declared it a global heath emergency.
The Hong Kong Sevens was scheduled for 3-5 April, and the Singapore leg a week later. Both cities are dealing with 50 confirmed cases of the virus, and there has been one death in Hong Kong.
The Singapore tournament has been rescheduled to take place on 10-11 October and Hong Kong a week later, on 16-18 October, to end this year's series.
The postponement leaves an 11-week gap in the men’s calendar between the Vancouver event in March and the London competition in May.
Robbie McRobbie, HKRU chief executive, said: “We’re disappointed that in Hong Kong and China and globally we’re struggling with a big health issue, but we’re delighted that World Rugby were able to confer us this slot. We’ve always wanted to be the last slot on the world series, and we’ve finally and rather bizarrely got our wish.”
The announcement follows the postponement of other prominent sports events in Asia, including Formula 1's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing and golf events in Thailand and Singapore.
Meanwhile, World Rugby has announced South Africa will host the inaugural HSBC World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series event for women.
The standalone event, to be held at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch on 28 and 29 March, will feature 12 teams who have qualified from all six World Rugby regions, including Argentina, Belgium, China, Colombia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Scotland and South Africa.
The 12 teams will be split into three pools of four and compete for places in a grand final, with the winner gaining core team status in the 2021 World Rugby Sevens Series.
The announcement follows the introduction of a Challenger Series event for men, which will be held in Vina del Mar in Chile this weekend.