Global Rapid Rugby suspended as regional sport shut down by COVID-19

Global Rapid Rugby’s 2020 season was suspended on Sunday after one round of competition due to travel restrictions put in place to halt the spread of COVID-19.

Over the weekend New Zealand and Australia both introduced 14-day self-isolation enforcements for anyone entering the two countries, making playing out the Global Rapid Rugby season as scheduled impossible.

Invest Samoa Manumā flew from Perth to Auckland after their opening loss to South China Tigers on Saturday night, where they will be in self-quarantine for 14 days before they can return to Samoa.

With 10 matches slated to be played in Australia and New Zealand over the remainder of the inaugural season, and the two nations both serving as important travel hubs for matches in Fiji, Samoa, Malaysia and Hong Kong, Global Rapid Rugby chief executive officer Mark Evans said there is no option other than to suspend the competition for the imminent future.

“The sporting environment has been turned upside down by the current worldwide health crisis,” he said in a press release.

“It’s enormously disappointing to have to suspend the competition just one round into the season, however the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff and fans are always our number one priority.”

The first home-and-away season of Global Rapid Rugby had already been impacted by COVID-19, with Hong Kong-based South China Tigers’ home matches all reverted to the back half of the season, and the China Lions having to play their ‘home’ matches in New Zealand and Australia rather than China, where the novel coronavirus originated.

“We will explore all avenues as we seek to evolve the competition to meet the difficult circumstances we all now find ourselves in,” Evans said.

"One thing that has not changed is our commitment to the development of rugby in the Asia-Pacific region and we look forward to getting back on the park and building on what Global Rapid Rugby has achieved so far."

Other sporting competitions in the Pacific Region have also been forced to make changes due to the public health risks and travel restrictions caused by COVID-19.

Super Rugby has been suspended for the foreseeable future, while Australia’s National Rugby League is going ahead behind closed doors.

The New Zealand-based Warriors have relocated to New South Wales in Australia for the time being, and may stay on and play all their remaining matches there if the competition is not suspended.

The Wellington Phoenix are in the same boat in regards to their participation in Australian football’s A-League.

Weightlifting’s combined Oceania and Commonwealth Championships, originally scheduled to be held from the 21st to the 25th of April in Nauru, was postponed to an unknown date on the weekend as well.

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