How has Coronavirus affected rugby in Asia?
With the deadly outbreak of the Coronavirus in Asia, the source thought to be in Wuhan, China, rugby schedules and preparations around the region have been affected.
Of course, it’s insubstantial compared to the mounting loss of human lives, but we look at how Asian countries are dealing with the outbreak and we look at how has Coronavirus has affected rugby in Asia in 2020 so far.
Updated Feb 13-14th 2020:
- The virus was given the official name COVID-19 in February 2020.
- HK and Singapore 7s postponed, confirmed on Feb 13th 2020.
- Kowloon RugbyFest postponed- Date TBC
- All Girls International Rugby Sevens 2020 postponed – Date TBC
- KL Tigers International Tens 2020 postponed -Date TBC
- Japan Top League and Super Rugby Sunwolves players advise to have minimal contact with fans
Updated 19th Feb 2020:
- Asia Rugby Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021 qualifiers postponed from March to May (provisional).
Updated 25th Feb 2020:
- Bangkok International Tens sees a number of teams drop out although the tournament is still going ahead. Rugby sides from Vietnam and Japan, in particular, are absent in the latest announcements.
Chinese social rugby has had to put the brakes on all activities with a number of clubs affected. The travel restrictions have also left players from clubs stranded in other cities and countries. Most of the clubs who have social media such as Facebook have posted that training and season preparations have been delayed.
Guangzhou Rams RFC said on February 8th 2020: “Sadly, due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the Guangzhou Rams RFC will be suspending training and social events until further notice. When it is safe to recommence club activities we will announce it on social media. Stay safe everyone and we look forward to being back up and running soon.”
Another popular club, the Changzhou Giants RFC posted: “Due to the ongoing situation in China with the CoronaVirus, training for the 10s season is sadly delayed – with many Giants currently stuck either inside or outside of China! Stay tuned for updates on the 10s season!!! To all in China – stay safe everyone! Particular thoughts go out to Wuhan Baiji Rugby, who are sadly at the epicentre of the current situation！
As the Giants mentioned, the Wuhan Baiji Rugby are in the middle of the crises. They themselves posted “As the club at the heart of the novel coronavirus, we are sadly forced to postpone the start of the rugby season until the situation resolves itself. To the players remaining in Wuhan and those quarantined across the world, stay strong! Wuhan, we are part of you!
Hong Kong Rugby
Domestic rugby season 2020
Hong Kong Rugby union initially suspended some club and youth training activities, and the virus outbreak spread at the same time as the HKRU was entering its vital semi-final and finals of the domestic women’s and men’s Grand Championships. These playoff games did go ahead over the past two weekends, but behind closed doors, with no fans permitted to attend. HKRU did Livestream the matches.
Cathay Pacific HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2020
The incredibly popular HSBC Cathay Pacific HK 7s issued a statement on January 31st 2020. The HKRU, which jointly hosts the annual tournament with World Rugby, said: “In light of the emergence of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019 N-Cov), the Hong Kong Rugby Union has curtailed its public match schedule for the coming fortnight and is advising the rugby community to maintain vigilant personal and environmental hygiene at present.”
The tournament had to already field similar questions about cancelling due to the protests in HK over recent months.
However, on February 13th 2020 World Rugby announced that the Cathay Pacific HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2020 and HSBC Singapore 7s would be postponed until October 2020.
- New Dates: 16-18 October 2020
Kowloon RugbyFest 2020
As a result of the change of dates to the Cathay Pacific HSBC HK7s 2020, the social tournament has had to adjust too. They announced on February 13th:
“Following Hong Kong Rugby Union’s protocols, we regret to inform you that the Tanner De Witt Kowloon RugbyFest will also be postponed until October 2020 (Date tbc). We are hopeful of your understanding and ongoing commitment to the tournament and we can assure you that plans are underway to make sure the Tanner De Witt Kowloon RugbyFest tournament and evening dinner will be as entertaining as ever. We look forward to welcoming you to Hong Kong in October 2020!”
All Girls International Rugby Sevens 2020 postponed
The All Girls International Rugby Sevens has also been forced to postpone its tournament which was due to be held the week before the Hong Kong Sevens main event.
The organisers said on February 14th: “Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation in our region, it is with a heavy heart that the All Girls International Rugby Sevens 2020tournament has been postponed. We will be reaching out to our wider community with a new date in due course. For any questions please visit our website at www.agir7s.com.“
Asia Rugby’s Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021 qualifiers
“Following the decisions on 14 February to reschedule this year’s Hong Kong and Singapore Sevens tournaments, in light of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, Asia Rugby, in coordination with its participating unions, is rescheduling the 2020 Asia Rugby Women’s Championship in Hong Kong until the provisional dates of 8-12-16 May at the earliest.”
Initially, the Singapore Rugby Union was proceeding with all domestic rugby fixtures scheduled for the weekend of 8th February but then had to issue a late notice that the Singapore MOH (Ministry of Health) asked for all games to be postponed until further notice.
Singapore Rugby posted a message online and all training, friendlies and matches were suspended for the weekend of February 8-9th 2020.
Update: in the week of February 10th, Singapore Rugby announced league games would go ahead, but under a ‘Closed Door’ policy.
All youth matches from U19 and below are suspended including JRCS and Mini-Games.
HSBC Singapore Sevens 2020
The international HSBC Singapore 7s rugby scheduled for April 2020 was confirmed to be postponed until October 2020. It will now take one week before the HK Sevens.
- New Dates: 10-11 October 2020
Domestic rugby does not appear to have been affected in Thailand. In Chiang Mai in early February a Tens rugby tournament went ahead (Prince’s Cup Rugby Tens).
The Bangkok International Tens tournament due to take place at the end of February 2020 also posted there were no plans to cancel. On February 4th they posted online “The Bangkok rugby 10s 2020 is still on as scheduled for the 29th February and 1st March.”
However, on Feb 25th a number of changes were announced to the teams and pools as rugby sides from Japan and Vietnam withdrew.
This is due to the Ministry of Education (MOE) issuing several rules regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19). The rule requires any students or parents travelling to those countries to self-quarantine themselves upon returning to Thailand for 14 days. These included Malaysia and Vietnam.
Social teams like the Southerners have had to make alternative arrangements for training as schools have put in restrictions due to the outbreak.
KL Tigers International 10’s 2020 postponed
The KL Tigers International Rugby 10s 2020 edition was due to be played from 7-8th March at the Bukit Kiara Equestrian Centre in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. It has since been postponed. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the organisers issued a statement on the 14th of February:
“It is with much sadness and regret that we inform you the 2020 event will be postponed.
This is not a decision we have taken lightly as we know how much this event means to so many of you. We had been working very hard to ensure this year’s event was our best ever with a new venue, an increase in teams and a more consistent start and finish time for all…..
Sadly this Virus situation only seems to be getting worse and every day seems to deal us another challenge that we simply cannot overcome, as a consequence we have to make a responsible decision based on all our attendees’ health, especially the children who have to come first in all of this.”
Japan Top League players were told by the JRFU (Japan Rugby Football Union) to not “engage with fans after matches” such as shaking hands and sign autographs.
Super Rugby Sunwolves players were also advised to have minimal contact with fans.
All Top League and Super Rugby games are still going ahead as planned.
Other countries in Asia
We advise all teams and tournaments to track the situation and follow their government advise on precautions and more can be read on the WHO website about measures to prevent spreading Coronavirus.
A number of other international tournaments are scheduled soon for the region, including the first Asia Rugby tournament in Pakistan with 4 countries involved, the Global Rapid Rugby championship starts in March and the Asian Women’s RWC qualifiers also due to be played in HK in March.
More Asian rugby news
- Find out about the Brave Blossoms 2020 rugby matches.
- The RWC 2021 venues and dates confirmed.
- Best Asian rugby tournaments this February 2020.
- Rhino has signed a deal with Asia Rugby until 2024