Japan's long-awaited league opener scrapped after virus cases
NEWS: The showpiece opening game of Japan’s new rugby union championship was scrapped Wednesday because of coronavirus cases, two days before it was due to take place at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium.
Japan Rugby League One officials said the game between Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay and Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights – set for Friday – had been cancelled after six Panasonic team members tested positive for the coronavirus.
Three more were still waiting on results, while the rest of the squad were designated as close contacts.
That left Panasonic without enough registered players 48 hours before kick-off for the game to go ahead, forcing a cancellation under league rules.
Japan Rugby League One officials offered “heartfelt apologies to all fans who were looking forward to the game”.
Kubota were awarded five points and Panasonic zero.
It is the latest embarrassing setback for the new league, which is relaunching in a bid to rekindle the excitement generated by Japan’s hosting of the 2019 World Cup.
Preparations had already been disrupted this week by a drug scandal involving former Australian rugby league star Blake Ferguson.
The 31-year-old was fired by NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu on Sunday after being arrested on drug charges in Tokyo, without playing a game for the club.
In response, league officials ordered every one of the league’s roughly 1,200 players to be tested for illegal substances, starting Wednesday.