Top League games cancelled due to Covid-19

Two of the eight games in the opening round of Japan’s Top League this weekend have been called off due to positive Covid-19 tests in three of the teams.

The Japan Rugby Football Union on Tuesday confirmed that a total 44 players and staff tested positive for the virus. This includes 24 from the Canon Eagles, 13 from Toyota Verblitz and seven from Suntory Sungoliath.

Sungoliath were set to meet Verblitz on Saturday in a game that was set to feature Springbok fullback Willie le Roux, All Blacks Beauden Barrett and Kieran Read and Australia internationals Michael Hooper, Samu Kerevi and Sean McMahon, as well as a host of Japanese internationals. Verblitz also have lock Jason Jenkins and former Cheetahs and Kings flyhalf Lionel Cronje among their ranks.

The Can0n Eagles’ opener against the Ricoh Black Rams, which was scheduled for Sunday, has also been called off.  Springbok centre Jesse Kriel was among the South Africans who were set to feature for the Eagles.

Neither of the two games will be rescheduled as, under Top League policy, both will be declared draws and the teams will get two log points each.

‘The Top League has created Covid-19 protocols and procedures together with the teams, but there’s still so much that’s unknown about the virus and we feel threatened,’ Top League chairman Osamu Ota said in a statement.

‘Fortunately none of the players are seriously ill but I pray for their quick recovery.’

Last year’s Top League season was cancelled in March due to the coronnavirus pandemic.

This year in the first stage of Japan’s top-tier domestic rugby union competition, the 16 Top League teams will be divided into two conferences to determine their seedings for the second stage.

A total of 20 teams, including four from the Top Challenge League, will be split into four groups of five teams in the second stage. The top two teams of each group proceed to the playoffs.

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