Australia, New Zealand rugby Sevens cancelled over coronavirus


Sydney (AFP)

The Australian and New Zealand legs of the 2021 sevens rugby world series were cancelled over the coronavirus on Tuesday as the sport's problems deepened less than a year from the postponed Tokyo Olympics.

The demise of the two tournaments, slated for January 23-24 and 30-31 respectively, means the first four events of the upcoming season have been axed after Dubai and Cape Town went in July.

The sevens circuit was halted in March by the pandemic, with the 2020 season's remaining five tournaments -- including the flagship Hong Kong leg -- eventually cancelled.

To bolster struggling unions, World Rugby announced a $2.5 million fund to help teams that have already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics next July.

New Zealand Rugby said the latest cancellations were due to the "continued global uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic".

World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper said it was "disappointing not be able to go ahead with the series events in New Zealand and Australia."

"We look forward to returning to Sydney and Hamilton in future," he added.

World Rugby is carrying out "collaborative contingency planning" for the 2021 series, and looking for "supplementary competition opportunities", a statement said.