No games will be played in China during the first season of Andrew Forrest’s Global Rapid Rugby due to the coronavirus.
Last month, the China Lions were announced as the sixth and final team for the inaugural season of the $1 million competition.
But the outbreak of the coronavirus meant organisers have been forced to find an alternative home ground for the Lions this year.
The Lions – a team jointly supported by the China Rugby Football Association and New Zealand domestic outfit Bay of Plenty – will now play three home games in NZ and two in Australia.
They were originally scheduled to play three games in Shanghai and two in Rotorua.
“The health and welfare of the players, the coaches and our fans has been our number one concern and we have followed the advice of all relevant authorities, including the World Health Organisation, every step of the way,” Global Rapid Rugby chief executive Mark Evans said.
The inaugural season will begin on March 14 with Fijian Latui hosting the China Lions under lights in Suva.
That will be followed by a double header at Perth’s HBF Park, where Manuma Samoa will play Hong Kong’s South China Tigers, before the Western Force take on the Malaysia Valke.
“We are ready and can’t wait to launch our competition,” said Evans.
“The situation in China and its effects elsewhere have meant the schedule has been amended a little but, I’m proud to say, there is not one hurdle we have not been able to overcome.”
“It’s exciting to think that within six hours, six teams representing the rich tradition of Australia and New Zealand, the exciting potential of Asia, and the raw talent of the Pacific Islands will be on show and growing the game of rugby,” he said.
SOURCE: AAP/RNZ PACIFIC/PACNEWS