AUCKLAND: New Zealand's sevens rugby and field hockey teams are reconsidering taking part in upcoming events in Asia because of the threat of war in Iraq and a pneumonia outbreak.
The New Zealand rugby team are scheduled to fly out on Sunday for the annual Hong Kong Sevens from March 28-30.
All indications are that by that stage the US-led war against Iraq will have begun, but of more concern to officials here is the outbreak in South East Asia of a virulent pneumonia.
The fast-spreading pneumonia, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), had the potential to cause the postponement of the Hong Kong Sevens and was being closely monitored by the New Zealand Rugby Football Union (NZRU).
NZRU acting deputy chief executive Steve Tew said the illness was a cause for concern and the union was considering sending an extra doctor to Hong Kong.
“We'll be talking to the Ministry of Health and International Rugby Board people in Asia.
“We want to make sure that the risk is manageable or we reconsider (sending a team).”
The NZRU received confirmation from the Hong Kong Rugby Union yesterday morning that the tournament was going ahead.
The threat of war in Iraq has already impacted on New Zealand football, with the All Whites' home and away matches against Iran postponed.
New Zealand were due to host Iran at North Harbour Stadium on March 28 but Iran confirmed they would not travel to New Zealand given the uncertainty over the return leg in Teheran a week later.
Most of the cases that have appeared in the past three weeks involved health workers in Hong Kong, Vietnam and Singapore.
“We're monitoring the situation but at this stage we're still sending at team,” an ARU spokesman said yesterday. – AFP