The opening weekend of the new Japan Rugby League One competition has taken its first Covid hit, with Robbie Deans’ Panasonic Wild Knights struck by an outbreak.
Six players in the squad tested positive on Thursday, three new positives adding to three from Wednesday, forcing the game against Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay scheduled for Friday to be postponed.
With the league quite strict on its protocols, the week two game against NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu is also in doubt.
The Top League – won last year by the Wild Knights after a grand final victory over Sungoliath – has been rejigged this year into a three-tier competition, featuring a 12-team Japan Rugby League One above six-team second and third divisions, as the country looks to capitalise both on its financial power and the popularity of the sport in the wake of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Instead of its planned Friday opening, League One will kick off with the three games slated for Saturday, including Sungoliath vs Brave Lupus at Ajinomoto Stadium, with the remaining two opening-round fixtures set for Sunday.