Australia freezes proposed domestic rugby competition due to coronavirus

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Rugby Australia has shelved plans for a domestic competition in lieu of Super Rugby following a government crackdown on non-essential travel because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The remodelled competition had a planned start date of April 3 but had been suspended until at least May 1, Rugby Australia (RA) said on Monday.

"Rugby Australia and the Super Rugby teams have made the decision today to suspend the start of the revised competition on the latest guidance from the various government and health authorities and our Chief Medical Officer," RA chief executive Raelene Castle said in a statement.

"Our priority is the health and welfare of our athletes and our wider Rugby community as we continue to adapt to an unprecedented and constantly-evolving situation for our game and society."

RA had planned to put on a domestic competition after Super Rugby, which involves teams from New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Japan, was suspended after the New Zealand government imposed strict border controls.

The halt of the franchise-based competition was a major blow for RA and partner unions in the southern hemisphere, which rely on broadcast revenues to support their domestic games.

Two more Australian states said on Sunday they would close their borders from Tuesday to restrict the movement of people, following similar actions in the Northern Territory and Tasmania announced last week.

"While this is having an unprecedented impact on our sport and many other sports, this is bigger than sport and that is why we will continue to put the health and welfare of our people above anything else," Castle said.


(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by ....)