The Latest: Non-Premiership English rugby canceled
The Latest on the effect of the coronavirus outbreak on sports around the world:
All rugby in England below the top-flight Premiership has been canceled for the season.
Bill Sweeney, chief executive of the Rugby Football Union, says the decision was taken “to assist with long-term planning and provide clarity to the game at a time of continuous change” during the virus outbreak.
Sweeney says the RFU is in “active discussions” with Premiership teams about managing the end of the season, which had been scheduled to finish at the end of May.
Several Premiership teams have asked players to take a pay cut during the outbreak.
England manager Gareth Southgate has urged people to “work together to combat" the coronavirus during the global outbreak with the same spirit they have shown in supporting his team during its improvement over the last two years.
In an open letter to fans, Southgate encouraged them to “follow the guidelines for hygiene and also the sensible precautions put in place to control the spread of the virus in order to protect those most vulnerable to its impact. That responsibility lies with us all.”
Southgate also warned of “challenges to our mental wellbeing” during a period of widespread economic uncertainty and self-isolation amid the coronavirus outbreak, and said: “Look out for each other. Please don’t suffer alone.”
With soccer virtually in a global lockdown, England will not be playing upcoming friendly matches against Italy and Denmark. This summer’s European Championship has also been postponed until 2021, meaning England will have to wait for its opportunity to win a first major international title since the World Cup in 1966 - having reached the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 against the odds under Southgate.
Southgate says “now is clearly not the moment for us to take centre stage. The heroes will be the men and women who continue working tirelessly in our hospitals and medical centers to look after our friends and families.”
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