Coronavirus wrap: Rugby union calendar blow and Harry Kane discusses restart
Rugby union’s summer internationals have been postponed en masse, leaving all four home nations affected, while the return of top-flight football in England could be dependent on players receiving further guidance from the Premier League.
World Rugby bowed to the inevitable pressures of Covid-19 on the global calendar on Friday, announcing that all fixtures in July had been called off.
For England that means no return to Japan, scene of their runners-up finish at last year’s World Cup, while Wales will also miss one Test against the Brave Blossoms as well as two in New Zealand.
Scotland had been due to tour South Africa and New Zealand, with Ireland heading to Australia. All those matches could yet be re-arranged as part of a revised schedule but the world governing body made it clear the logistical issues involved around travel, quarantine and player welfare represented a tricky backdrop.
Responding to the loss of games in Oita (July 4) and Kobe (July 11), England head coach Eddie Jones said: “While we are of course disappointed to have our two Test matches against Japan postponed, it’s the correct decision under the current circumstances.”
Wales coach Wayne Pivac, who would have been bringing the team to his homeland, said: “On a personal note I was really looking forward to returning to New Zealand with Wales. It’s unfortunate that we will now have to wait a little longer for that privilege, but the occasion will be no less relished when it arrives.”
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend was left frustrated but not surprised by developments.
“As a team we were generating some positive momentum in the Six Nations and we were all looking forward to the exciting challenge of playing the world champions, and the All Blacks, on their home soil this summer,” he said.
“As a tour it would have provided an excellent learning experience, but we fully understand the reasons why it can’t go ahead.”
There was regret and understanding from Ireland, too, with performance director David Nucifora saying: “While it is disappointing that the summer tour to Australia will not go ahead as scheduled, it will not be a surprise to many as it is clear that Covid-19 will have implications for our game for some time to come.”
Football fans appear to be in a better position after Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said the Government was “opening the door” for a phased restart.
The Premier League is working towards a mooted start date of June 12 but England captain Harry Kane has indicated players will be looking for more information before making their own decisions on how to proceed.
“I don’t think anyone knows the right answer at the moment. I think the majority of players are looking forward to playing again as soon as possible but we know we want it to be as safe as possible too,” he told Good Morning Britain.
“From what I have heard – obviously I haven’t seen too much of my team-mates – at the moment everyone is OK. We want to see how the Premier League gives us a plan and what that looks like. I guess we just go from there.
“Me personally, I am happy to start training in small groups if that is allowed and just trying to get back to some normality. I guess everyone is different and has their own personal view.”
The financial impact of the pandemic on English cricket has been estimated at a worst-case £380million and Yorkshire have become the latest county to make further cuts.
The White Rose were the first team to announce furloughs for players and cricket staff and there has now been an agreement on pay cuts of up to 20 per cent and the cancellation of overseas deals for Keshav Maharaj, Ravichandran Ashwin and Nicholas Pooran.
Yorkshire chief executive Mark Arthur said: “We do not take decisions such as these lightly, but now is the time to take drastic steps.
“The staff and players were consulted earlier this week and their reaction to the news has been fantastic.”