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Start of Japan rugby season delayed after 62 COVID-19 cases

January 14, 2021 GMT
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FILE - In this Oct. 20, 2019, file photo, a Japan fan reacts after the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal loss to South Africa at Tokyo Stadium in Tokyo, Japan. The start of the Japanese Top League season will be pushed back until next month after 62 players and staff from six teams tested positive for the coronavirus, the Japan Rugby Football Union said Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)
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FILE - In this Oct. 20, 2019, file photo, a Japan fan reacts after the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal loss to South Africa at Tokyo Stadium in Tokyo, Japan. The start of the Japanese Top League season will be pushed back until next month after 62 players and staff from six teams tested positive for the coronavirus, the Japan Rugby Football Union said Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

TOKYO (AP) — The start of the Japanese Top League season will be pushed back until next month after 62 players and staff from six teams tested positive for the coronavirus, the Japan Rugby Football Union said Thursday.

The season was to have started this weekend.

The JRFU, during an online briefing, declined to name those who had tested positive, citing privacy reasons.

“The reason for the postponement at this point is that it will be difficult for the league to complete the season in its current format,” JRFU chairman Kensuke Iwabuchi said. “Also, we could not guarantee the safety and security of the players in this gray area so we decided to postpone the opening day.”

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The announcement of the outbreak came a day after the Japanese government expanded its coronavirus state of emergency orders.

“I’m hoping that by the beginning of February, we’ll somehow have a situation where there are no infected players,” Iwabuchi said. “But a variety of situations are possible. In order to be ready for the situations, I would like to make the most of this period to move forward.”

Cases have been surging for a month in Japan. The country has held the virus in check with about 4,000 deaths. But the surge could imperil the Tokyo Olympics that are to open in six months.

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