Super Rugby 2020: Crusaders v Sunwolves clash won't be hosted in Japan

The Crusaders will not play the Sunwolves in Japan.
The Crusaders will not play the Sunwolves in Japan. Photo credit: Photosport

SANZAAR has announced the Crusaders' Super Rugby match against the Sunwolves will be played at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane due to the coronavirus. 

The match was originally scheduled to take place at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo on March 14, but the fixture will now take place at a neutral venue on the same date ahead of the Reds' match against the Bulls. 

Growing concern over the spread of COVID-19 in Japan has led to the Japanese government requesting all sports events due to be held in that country in the next two weeks be cancelled.

SANZAAR also announced the Sunwolves' match against the Brumbies on March 8 in Osaka will now be played at WIN Stadium in Wollongong, prior to the Waratahs v Chiefs match. 

Sunwolves chief executive Yuji Watase Watase said they looked at playing the two matches behind closed door, but agreed to change venues. 

"We are trying to relocate the Brumbies' match on 8th March in Osaka and the Crusaders' match on 14th in Tokyo to overseas," Watase told reporters in Japan. 

"In the beginning, we tried to hold these matches in Japan behind closed doors, but when we thought about what is the best solution, we came to the conclusion to hold these games abroad."   

SANZAAR also announced it will review its playing schedule to minimise the risk, with prevention measures coming into play at all Super Rugby venues.

"Super Rugby has been very aware of the effect and ongoing concerns around the corona virus and it was very clear that we had to make changes to the match schedule to conform with Japanese government requirements and health authority directives, and of course to ensure the well-being of our players and management teams, match officials and spectators," said Super Rugby chief executive Andy Marinos.

"For the integrity of the tournament we also believe relocating the matches was the right thing to do regardless of the complexities involved.

"Due to the fact that the Sunwolves were due in Australia for two matches following the Brumbies and Crusaders matches in Japan, and the availability of stadiums and suitable broadcast windows, the matches have been relocated to Australia.

"This has enabled us to create a series of double-header matches which we hope will prove popular with rugby fans in Wollongong [Sydney] and Brisbane."

The World Health Organization says COVID-19 has killed nearly 3000 people and infected more than 80,000. There have been 850 cases of coronavirus in Japan - 705 on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, and 189 on land - and four deaths, which has prompted serious concerns for a country set to host the Olympics in July. 

On Wednesday, the  Japan Rugby Football Union postponed 16 games across two rounds of the 2020 Top League season, due to growing alarm over the spiralling crisis.

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

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

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

Meanwhile, the Sunwolves are currently in New Zealand for Saturday's match against the Hurricanes in Napier.

No decision has yet been made on future Sunwolves matches in Asia against the Reds in Tokyo (5 April), Jaguares in Singapore (2 May), Waratahs in Tokyo (8 May) and Stormers in Tokyo (16 May). 

Join us for live updates of Hurricanes v Sunwolves from 4:30pm Saturday