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Rugby-Start of Japan’s Top League delayed due to COVID-19 outbreaks

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TOKYO — The start of Japan’s Top League rugby union competition has been delayed due to COVID-19 outbreaks at several clubs, the league and Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) said on Thursday.

The competition had been due to start this weekend but with 10 positive tests at Kobe Steelers on Thursday taking the total to 67 league-wide, organizers said they were now aiming for a mid-February start.

Last year’s season was canceled entirely because of the pandemic.

“Japan Rugby Football Union and Top League have had discussions and we want to do everything we can to have this year’s Top League season,” said JRFU Chairman Kensuke Iwabuchi.

Organizers said they were yet to finalize a new start date and whether the format needed to be changed because of time restrictions and safety precautions.

Top League chief Osamu Ota hoped the season would finish by the scheduled end date of May 23 so that it would not interfere with the national team’s plans.

“We are aiming to start in mid-February,” said Ota.

“Regarding the COVID-19 situation, it changes on a day-to-day basis.”

Kobe are the sixth team to report positive COVID-19 results along with NEC Green Rockets, Toyota Verblitz, Suntory Sungoliath, Canon Eagles and Toshiba Brave Lupus.

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