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World Rugby announces postponement of July internationals

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — World Rugby has postponed July test matches involving southern and northern hemisphere nations because of ongoing restrictions on international travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

The sport's international governing body issues a statement Friday saying the mid-year test window will be rescheduled when cross-border travel and quarantine regulations are relaxed. New Zealand had been scheduled to play Wales and Scotland, Australia was set to play Ireland and Fiji and South Africa had planned to host Scotland and Georgia. World Rugby said the postponement is due “to ongoing government and health agency COVID-19 directives.”

“Extended travel and quarantine restrictions that apply to numerous countries and concerns over adequate player preparation time mean that any sort of cross-border international rugby competition cannot be hosted in July,” World Rugby said.

The Super Rugby season was suspended in March, but participating countries are planning domestic tournaments to off-set the lost games. New Zealand's Super Rugby teams will play a 10-week competition starting next month, and Australia's Super Rugby clubs are aiming for a July re-start.

In terms of test matches, World Rugby said it will continue to monitor the potential impact on the remaining 2020 international windows. It said consultation would take place with member unions, professional clubs and the International Rugby Players Association “with a view to achieving an aligned calendar for the remainder of the year."

South Africa Rugby Union chief executive Jurie Roux said any rescheduling “will have player health, welfare and appropriate return-to-play protocols at heart.” As for the timing of a return to international rugby, Roux said it would be "inappropriate to comment of potential solutions during a fluid and important consultation process.”

The June or July test window is an established part of the international rugby season, when northern hemisphere nations travel to the southern hemisphere for test series and when tournaments such as the Pacific Nations Cup are played, involving Pacific Island nations and Japan, Canada and the United States.

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