English Premiership rugby set to halt matches over coronavirus: reports

London (AFP) –


Rugby Union's English Premiership is set to be suspended on Monday due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to British media reports.

The Pro 14 and French Top 14 leagues were halted last week in response to the threat posed by the deadly virus.

Premiership clubs will discuss potential next steps, with a suspension of 10 to 12 weeks likely according to a BBC report.

The Telegraph said matches would be postponed for at least four weeks, while the BBC reported European Cup competitions are also set to be postponed in the next 24 hours.

"The welfare of fans, players and staff is our first concern and it's crucial to get these important decisions right," a Premiership Rugby spokesperson said.

"We are working closely with our own medical experts, DCMS & Public Health England, and our clubs. That advice will allow us and our clubs to make a well-informed decision in the coming days."

Amid reports the British government will ban mass public gatherings from next week, Premiership rugby looks set to go into lockdown in the same way football's Premier League were forced to on Friday.

The only English fixture involving top-flight teams this weekend was Sunday's Premiership Cup final between Sale and Harlequins.

But that was postponed on Friday after a Quins staff member reported virus-like symptoms.

Premiership teams are due to be in action next weekend, with nine weekends of matches still to play before the semi-finals and final in June.

The Six Nations tournament was also thrown into chaos by the virus, with all three matches postponed this weekend.

The European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup quarter-finals are scheduled in the first week of April, but also look likely to be called off.

"The EPCR board will meet by conference call on Monday afternoon to discuss next steps for European club rugby tournaments this season after gathering all information from leagues, unions and local authorities," an EPCR spokesperson told the BBC.