Rugby: Six Nations, Japan Top League matches postponed due to coronavirus

Matches in Ireland and Japan have been put on hold, because of the deadly virus.
Matches in Ireland and Japan have been put on hold, because of the deadly virus. Photo credit: Getty

The deadly coronavirus outbreak has forced the postponement of top-flight rugby matches in Ireland and Japan, while Super Rugby games involving the Tokyo-based Sunwolves are also faced with cancellation.

Men's and women's Six Nations fixtures between Ireland and Italy have been postponed, with 11 towns in northern Italy in lockdown. 

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) confirmed the news, after a meeting between chief executive Phillip Browne and Health Minister Simon Harris. 

"The IRFU is perfectly happy to comply with this instruction," said Browne. "We will immediately begin to work with our Six Nations partners to look to reschedule. 

"I hope to have an update on that in the coming days."

Six Nations organisers said they were "fully supportive" of the decision.

Ireland's men were scheduled to face Italy at the Aviva Stadium on March 8, before the women's game the following day at Energia Park.

Both Scotland v France and England v Wales are scheduled to proceed, although the Scottish Rugby Union released a statement, saying it was in "regular contact" with the government and Six Nations over the current situation. 

Japan Rugby Football Union said it would postpone 16 games across two rounds of the 2020 Top League season, due to growing alarm over the spiralling coronavirus crisis.

Dan Carter in action in Japan.
Dan Carter in action in Japan. Photo credit: Photosport

Many New Zealand players and coaches are affected, including current All Blacks Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick, former NZ captain Kieran Read and star first-five Dan Carter.

Additionally, Global Rapid Rugby has relocated matches in China to New Zealand and possibly Australia.

Sanzaar told the Sydney Morning Herald that it was monitoring the situation in Japan, with one game in Osaka and four matches in Tokyo scheduled in the coming months. 

"Sanzaar is cognisant of what is happening, and taking advice from medical authorities and government, but at this stage it's business as usual," a spokesperson told the SMH. 

As it stands, 850 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Japan, leading to four deaths, while Italy has reported 322 cases, with 11 deaths.

Globally, more than 80,000 cases have been confirmed, with 2600 deaths.

Other major events affected by the coronavirus include the 2020 world athletics indoor championships, football matches in Italy and Asia, the Chinese Formula One and Formula E Grands Prix, along with several Olympic qualifying events.