SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Japan-based Sunwolves’ Super Rugby matches at home to the ACT Brumbies and Canterbury Crusaders have been moved to Australia over the coronavirus outbreak, the governing body SANZAAR said in a statement on Friday.
The Sunwolves were due to host the Brumbies in Osaka on March 8 and Crusaders in Tokyo on March 14 but have moved the games to Australia after Japan’s government called for a cancellation of all sports events for the next two weeks.
The Brumbies game will be held in Wollongong as the curtain-raiser to the New South Wales Waratahs game with the Waikato Chiefs on March 6, while they will play the Crusaders ahead of the Queensland Reds-Bulls match in Brisbane on March 14.
“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,” SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos said.
“For the integrity of the tournament we also believe relocating the matches was the right thing to do regardless of the complexities involved.”
The Sunwolves, who are currently in New Zealand to face the Wellington Hurricanes in Napier on Saturday, were already scheduled to be in Australia for their matches against the Melbourne Rebels on March 20 and the Waratahs on March 28.
Marinos added that there had been no decision yet on whether their remaining home games against the Reds in Tokyo on April 5, Jaguares in Singapore on May 2 and then the Waratahs on May 8 and Stormers on May 16, both in Tokyo, would need to be moved.
They are the first Super Rugby matches to be affected by the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected over 80,000 people and killed nearly 3,000, mostly in China.
The Ireland-Italy Six Nations match on March 7 in Dublin was postponed on Wednesday following an outbreak of the virus in northern-Italy.
Dozens of other sports events, notably the world athletics indoor championships in Nanjing from March 13-15 which has been put back until next year, have either been cancelled, postponed, shifted or affected by the outbreak.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Ken Ferris