SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The Singapore leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, a source familiar with the matter has told Reuters, while the Hong Kong event is also in the balance.
The outbreak of the flu-like virus in China has killed more than 1,300 people and infected well over 50,000 more and health experts have warned that the epidemic could get worse before it gets better.
The Singapore tournament, which had been due to take place in the city-state April 11-12, could be pushed back until October, the source said. Event organisers did not respond to a request for comment.
A media report earlier on Thursday said the Hong Kong event was also likely to be postponed until the same month.
The Hong Kong sevens, which arguably popularised and globalised the shortened version of rugby in the 1990s and is considered the marquee stop on the 10-tournament circuit, was due to be held from April 3-5.
Organisers had said as late as two weeks ago they thought the tournament would take place but had now shifted it to October, the South China Morning Post reported on Thursday.
The Hong Kong Rugby Union refused to confirm the postponement, although Chief Executive Robbie McRobbie told the newspaper that World Rugby would make an announcement later on Thursday.
The governing body is expected to address the fate of the tournaments in Dublin at 0900 GMT.
The events are seen as key to teams' preparations for the Tokyo Olympics rugby sevens competitions, which run from July 27-Aug. 1.
The Hong Kong tournament was hosting a joint Sevens Series competition for both men and women for the first time this year as World Rugby expanded the women's circuit from six tournaments to eight.
Olympic champions Fiji have won the last five Hong Kong titles, while New Zealand lead the standings of the current series.
If confirmed, the tournaments join a long list of international sports events in Asia that have been cancelled, postponed or moved because of the virus, most notably the indoor world athletics championships in Nanjing from March 13-15.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington and Singapore newsroom; Editing by Ed Osmond/Peter Rutherford)