Sydney – Australia will host two Super Rugby home games of the Sunwolves after they were relocated from Japan on Friday due to fears over the deadly coronavirus epidemic.
The Sunwolves were due to host the Brumbies in Osaka on March 8, but that game will now take place two days earlier in Wollongong, south of Sydney.
Their clash with New Zealand powerhouse the Crusaders in Tokyo has also been moved to Australia with that game to be played in Brisbane on March 14.
Super Rugby chief Andy Marinos commented: “It was very clear that we had to make changes to the match schedule to conform with Japanese government requirements and health authority directives.
“The relocation of these matches has involved an incredible amount of detailed logistical and operational work and these efforts reflect the great spirit within the rugby family at times like these.”
The Sunwolves are currently in New Zealand for Saturday’s match against the Hurricanes, with the changes effectively meaning they will remain on the road for the next four weeks.
The spread of COVID-19 has led to the postponement of a host of sporting events in Japan, raising fears that the outbreak could affect the Tokyo Olympics due to begin on July 24.
So far, the southern-hemisphere Super Rugby competition, featuring teams from Australia, Argentina, Japan, New Zealand, and South Africa, has not had to cancel any matches.
Governing body SANZAAR said no decision had yet been made on future Sunwolves games in Asia, including against the Reds in Tokyo on April 5, Jaguares in Singapore on May 2 and the Waratahs in Tokyo on May 8.
“SANZAAR will continue to work with all the necessary government health authorities, national unions and teams to determine a suitable course of action for these matches,” it added.
Under new protocols introduced by SANZAAR on Thursday, sanitisation stations will be set up at all team venues and players and staff will need to undergo temperature checks.