Major League Rugby season cancelled due to coronavirus

International
Beth Newman Profile
by AFP & Beth Newman

The USA's Major League Rugby has been the first competition officially cancelled because of coronavirus while Europe's Pro14 June final has been abandoned.

Health and safety guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have banned large gatherings to combat the COVID-19 crisis.

A week after issuing a 30-day pause to the regular season, the rugby union league decided to shut down any attempt to restart the season and begin preparing for 2021.

"I am saddened to announce that the remainder of the 2020 season is cancelled," MLR commissioner George Killebrew said.

"We believe it is ultimately the correct decision as we factored in health and safety risks for all parties."

Ma'a Nonu in action in Major League Rugby earlier this year. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyKillebrew vowed the league would return next year.

"I want to ensure our fans that there is no doubt MLR will be back in 2021 and will emerge bigger and better than ever before," he said. "We will be using this time as an opportunity to grow all aspects of MLR and we're excited to continue this journey into 2021 and for many years to come."

The league grew from seven to nine teams from its 2018 debut to 2019 and added three more clubs in 2020 with Atlanta, Washington and New England joining.

When the season was halted, the San Diego Legion topped the table at 5-0 on 23 points followed by Toronto at 4-1 on 19 points and Old Glory DC at 4-1 with 17 points.

MLR also began adding more top names from overseas, notably prop Tendai "The Beast" Mtawarira, who sparked South Africa to the 2019 Rugby World Cup title before joining Old Glory.

The Pro14 competition, which includes Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy and South Africa, announced its June decider set to be held in Cardiff would be cancelled and the season suspended indefinitely.

Pro14 organisers had already halted the competitoin temporarily and travel restrictions have made it all but impossible for the league to continue.

The final was scheduled to be played at Cardiff City Stadium but that will no longer be the case.

“The board of Celtic Rugby DAC met by teleconference this week and agreed upon a strict list of criteria that would enable the Championship to recommence,” the league said in a statement.

“However, no decision on a definitive re-commencement date can be made until four key criteria can be met within our respective competing territories:

“Public Health Authorities cease to prohibit the resumption of sport and group training.

“Travel restrictions between our territories are lifted."

“No forced isolation or quarantine orders are in force when visiting our territories.

“Player welfare is safeguarded, including requirement for a suitable pre-recommencement training period.

The Pro 14 competition has been suspended indefinitely. Photo: Getty Images“Due to the evolving situation, unfortunately the board had to take the further decision to cancel the PRO14 Final at Cardiff City Stadium, set to take place on June 20. Refunds will be made automatically to all who have already purchased tickets.

“Should any final be played as part of the 2019/20 season, it will be hosted by the team with highest ranking based upon league records from this campaign.”

“No forced isolation or quarantine orders are in force when visiting our territories.

“Player welfare is safeguarded, including requirement for a suitable pre-recommencement training period.

“Due to the evolving situation, unfortunately the board had to take the further decision to cancel the PRO14 Final at Cardiff City Stadium, set to take place on June 20. Refunds will be made automatically to all who have already purchased tickets.

“Should any final be played as part of the 2019/20 season, it will be hosted by the team with highest ranking based upon league records from this campaign.”

Ireland has also cancelled the remainder of its national and provincial competitions that sit below the Pro14.