Tokyo Olympics rugby test cancelled over virus

Organisers said they couldn’t guarantee a safe running of the Asia Sevens Invitational, scheduled for April 25-26.

A woman wearing a face mask walks along a street on March 3 in Hakone, Japan. Worldwide, more than 90,000 people have been infected and 3,100 killed due to the virus.   -  Getty Images

Japan cancelled the Tokyo Olympics’ rugby test event on Tuesday in the latest disruption caused by the new coronavirus, which has raised concerns over whether the Games will go ahead on time. Organisers said they couldn’t guarantee a safe running of the Asia Sevens Invitational, scheduled for April 25-26.

“As the impact of the novel coronavirus spreads across the world, we are not able to guarantee that the tournament will be held safely at this point,” Japan Rugby Football Union said in a statement.

The tournament’s demise comes after the Hong Kong and Singapore Sevens were postponed as chaos caused by the virus sweeps through the sporting calendar. More than 90,000 people have been infected and 3,100 killed since COVID-19 emerged in China late last year, before spreading to over 70 countries.

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In Japan, a wheelchair rugby test event for the Paralympics was cancelled this week, while training for Olympics volunteers was postponed and the nationwide torch relay looks set to be scaled back. Japan’s prime minister has called for schools to close and for major events to be cancelled, while several Olympic qualifying tournaments around the world have been delayed, cancelled or moved.

The JRFU said the sevens tournament had been cancelled before teams arrange flights and make other plans. Olympics organisers said they would carry out a rugby test event “in some form” after “confirming it is safe to do so.”

Officials have repeatedly stressed that they’re committed to holding the Olympics as scheduled from July 24 to August 9.

On Tuesday, Japan’s Olympic minister told parliament that the hosting agreement appeared to allow postponing the Games until later in the year.