SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The Singapore and Hong Kong legs of the World Rugby Sevens Series have been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, World Rugby announced on Thursday.
The outbreak has killed more than 1,300 people in China and infected tens of thousands more, and there are signs that infection rates are continuing to rise.
The Singapore tournament, which was due to take place on April 11-12, will now take place on Oct. 10-11, and the Hong Kong leg has been moved from April 3-5 to Oct. 16-18.
“The health and safety of our players, fans and everyone working on the event is always our highest priority,” World Rugby said in a statement https://www.world.rugby/sevens-series/news/559391.
“This prudent decision …was taken based on the World Health Organisation and relevant public authority travel and health guidelines. (It) …is fully supported by stakeholders, including unions and commercial partners.”
The Hong Kong Sevens, which arguably popularized and globalised the shortened version of rugby in the 1990s, is considered the marquee stop on the 10-tournament circuit.
The Singapore and Hong Kong rounds were seen as key to teams’ preparations for the Tokyo Olympics rugby sevens competitions, due to run from July 27-Aug. 1.
The Hong Kong tournament is set to host a joint Sevens Series competition for both men and women for the first time this year as World Rugby expanded the women’s circuit from six tournaments to eight.
Olympic champions Fiji have won the last five Hong Kong titles, while New Zealand lead the standings of the current series.
The tournaments join a long list of international sports events in Asia that have been canceled, postponed or moved because of the virus, most notably the indoor world athletics championships in Nanjing from March 13-15.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington, Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru and Singapore newsroom; Editing by Ed Osmond/Peter Rutherford)