World Rugby has taken the decision to postpone all international rugby matches scheduled for July because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Reigning Rugby World Cup holders South Africa had been due to face Scotland and Georgia, while England were set to tour Japan and New Zealand had been scheduled to host Wales and Scotland.

However, all of those matches, and Ireland's tour of Australia, have been postponed with no new dates set.

A statement from World Rugby read: "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.

"Monitoring of the potential impact on the remaining 2020 international windows continues in collaboration with international rugby stakeholders and the respective authorities.  

"All parties, including member unions, international competitions, professional club competitions and International Rugby Players, will be involved in the evaluation of potential contingency options with a view to achieving an aligned calendar for the remainder of the year.

"All decision-making will be entirely contingent on national government travel, quarantine and health advice and important player welfare and hosting considerations in line with return-to-rugby guidance recently published by World Rugby."

Rugby Australia's general manager Ben Whitaker had previously suggested that games could be rescheduled for October.

International rugby has been on hold since March when the Six Nations was halted with four matches still to play.

The financial impact of having no games has already severely impacted the unions in Australia and the USA, with World Rugby having set up a $100million relief fund.

 

The late, great Jonah Lomu would have been celebrating his 45th birthday on Tuesday.

News of the New Zealand legend's death at the age of only 40 rocked the sporting world in November 2015.

The giant wing tormented opponents during his magnificent career with such searing pace, incredible power and skill.

We pick some of the moments in which Lomu demonstrated why he was such a phenomenon.

Four-midable powerhouse demolishes England

Lomu had only just turned 20 when he got his first experience of the Rugby World Cup in South Africa back in 1995 and he was very much at home on the big stage.

England were simply unable to contain the powerful flyer in the semi-final at Newlands, Lomu scoring a sensational four tries in a 45-29 victory.

Lomu set the tone with a stunning early solo score, brushing off Tony Underwood and darting past Will Carling before steamrollering his way through Mike Catt and touching down.

He clinically added another three tries to set up a final against the hosts, which the Springboks won at Ellis Park.

 

Deja vu at Twickenham

England must have felt they had already seen more than enough of the imposing Lomu ahead of another World Cup showdown at Twickenham 21 years ago.

The two sides were locked at 16-16 in a Pool B match when Lomu produced another moment of magic in the second half.

He bolted down the left flank at great speed, hurtling past Jeremy Guscott and beating another three defenders before dotting down for a sublime score in the corner.

The All Blacks went on to win 30-16, thanks in no small part to the unstoppable Lomu.

 

All Blacks suffer Les Bleus despite jaw-dropping double

October 31, 1999 was a day to forget for New Zealand fans but Lomu sparkled again in a painful World Cup semi-final defeat to France.

He conjured up another jaw-dropping individual try when a swarm of blue shirts were unable to halt his charge from midfield.

Lomu added another for the showreel early in the second half after combining magnificently with Jeff Wilson as the All Blacks steamed into a 24-10 lead.

France came storming back at Twickenham, though, winning a thriller 43-31 to leave New Zealand shell-shocked despite the brilliance of Lomu.

 

Scotland blown away

Lomu's only other Test hat-trick came in a 69-20 demolition of Scotland in Dunedin. 

The All Blacks ran riot at Carisbrook in 2000, Lomu again taking centre stage with a world-class display of finishing.

Sheer strength, persistence and a blistering turn of foot gave him an opening try, getting over the line having got back to his feet after being taken down briefly by Chris Paterson.

His other two tries were more straightforward as weary Scotland were given a brutal lesson.

England defence coach John Mitchell expects Saracens duo Maro Itoje and Mako Vunipola to make "good decisions" over their futures.

Itoje has been linked with a loan move to Racing 92 and there are no certainties over which club his England team-mate Vunipola will play for next season after Sarries were relegated from the Premiership for breaching salary-cap regulations.

England head coach Eddie Jones is unable to select players based overseas, but Mitchell is confident Itoje and Vunipola will still be available for selection.

The New Zealander said: "I'm sure Eddie, as he is very good at, is guiding them and helping them and they have probably sought his advice.

"They've got family and friends and people within Saracens who they trust. 

"I'm quite confident that they will make good decisions, that are right for them and their families and also that are right in terms of playing Test rugby for England because they are two guys who love playing for England."

Mitchell knows the coaching staff and players must be ready to adapt their methods when rugby union returns after being suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The RFU and our medics are working very closely with the government and it’s important I leave it with them," he added.

"No one knows what the pecking order will be. I guess it's just sensible that non-contact sports will be the creators of the start, I guess, and we'll learn from what we experience and what they go through. When we eventually get the green button then we as a coaching group will need to be ready.

"We're going to have to be creative and innovative around how we do things. A lot of our players are going to be better for this as well because they've had to find a way to train with home constraints.

"We are going to have to find different ways to train based on the distancing."

Sam Cane has succeeded Kieran Read as New Zealand captain, the All Blacks announced on Tuesday.

The loose forward, 28, made his debut against Ireland in 2012 and has gone on to represent his country on 68 occasions, with 48 of those appearances as a starter.

Cane, who has already captained New Zealand three times, was a Rugby World Cup winner in 2015 and part of the team that finished third in Japan last year.

"It's a pretty exciting challenge really and as I've spent more time in the All Blacks and grown as a player, I've become a lot more comfortable being a leader in the team," Cane said.

"The great thing about the All Blacks is that the leadership group is full of captains and experienced players already, so I'm just really looking forward to working closely with that group and doing my best to lead them and the rest of the squad.

"My style as captain will be to not really change the way I do things. I'm just myself and will continue to be. I already work on building relationships, especially with the younger guys in the squad, and everyone else connected with the team, so that will continue.

"While we don't know yet what the rest of the year looks like for the All Blacks, I'm looking forward to catching up with the coaches and other senior players as we firm up our plans."

Read retired from international rugby after the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

New All Blacks coach Ian Foster said Cane, who has made 116 appearances for the Chiefs and won two Super Rugby titles, is a natural leader and has an important part to play amid uncertain times in global sport as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Sam is an experienced All Black with eight years in the team now and is a 'follow me' type of leader and a very good thinker in the game," Foster said.

"He has a natural ability to connect with everyone in the team and is straightforward and direct when he needs to be.

"There's massive respect for Sam amongst the players and management, and he's perfectly placed to lead the All Blacks into the future.

"We wanted to confirm Sam now because he'll play a key role helping us plan for whatever the future looks like and will be working behind the scenes with the other leaders."

SA Rugby has admitted it is considering the possibility of rescheduling the British and Irish Lions tour due to the impact of the coronavirus.

Warren Gatland's Lions are due to visit South Africa next July and August for a tour that will feature three Tests against the world champions.

However, the outbreak of COVID-19 could have a knock-on effect on that tour, with Northern Hemisphere countries facing up to the possibility of missing out on revenue from internationals that may have to be scrapped later this year.

A report over the weekend claimed the Lions' 2021 tour to South Africa could be cancelled entirely as World Rugby contemplates how to reschedule the calendar when the sport returns.

SA Rugby has insisted the Lions tour remains on, though it conceded the dates are being looked at.

"While we continue to look forward to an incredible tour by The British and Irish Lions next year, and there are no planned changes, it would be remiss of us not to explore various scenarios for a possible date change caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said an SA Rugby spokesperson.

The Lions last toured South Africa in 2009, losing 2-1 to the Springboks.

They have since beaten Australia 2-1 and drawn with New Zealand under Gatland.

Bill Beaumont wants to deliver a "stronger, more sustainable game" after he was re-elected for a second term as World Rugby chairman.

The former England captain, 68, achieved a 28-23 majority over fellow candidate Agustin Pichot following the first round of voting in the independent election, meaning he will carry on in the post for a further four years.

France's Bernard Laporte is the new vice-chairman after standing unopposed for the position, while seven new members have been confirmed to the organisation's executive committee.

World Rugby will officially confirm Beaumont's continuation in the role at its annual meeting on May 12, though he is already thinking about the future as rugby union looks to recover from problems caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

A complete shutdown of the sport at club and international level has had financial ramifications for many, with the focus now on a plan for a return to action that still "prioritises player welfare".

"Now is not the time for celebration. We have work to do," Beaumont said in a statement.

"We are tackling COVID-19 and must implement an appropriate return-to-rugby strategy that prioritises player welfare, while optimising any opportunity to return to international rugby this year in full collaboration with club competitions for the good of players, fans and the overall financial health of the sport.

"I am determined to ensure that the spirit of unity and solidarity that has characterised our work in response to an unprecedented global COVID-19 pandemic, is the cornerstone of a new approach that will deliver a stronger, more sustainable game when we emerge with new enthusiasm, a renewed purpose and an exciting future."

Beaumont thanked outgoing vice-chairman Pichot for the Argentinian's contribution to World Rugby over their previous four years of working together.

"While we stood against each other in this campaign, we aligned in many ways, and I have the utmost respect for him," Beaumont said. "Gus is passionate about the sport and his contribution has been significant."

Rugby Australia (RA) is discussing the possibility of playing a makeshift trans-Tasman competition and Bledisloe Cup series later this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Super Rugby season was suspended last month due to COVID-19 and plans for a domestic competition as part of a way to continue the campaign were put on hold.

Australia and New Zealand, however, have managed to halt the spread of coronavirus and travel conditions could eventually be eased.

After agreeing a pay cut with players on Monday, RA is eyeing a provincial competition and a 2020 Bledisloe Cup series between the Wallabies and All Blacks.

"Yeah it's certainly one of the models that we've got worked through at the moment and we remain in consistent discussions with New Zealand because obviously that makes a lot of sense," RA chief executive Raelene Castle told reporters via a conference call on Tuesday.

"The indications we're getting from government agencies is that the sequence of opening up is likely to be domestic first, then into maybe trans-Tasman and maybe Pacific, and then international.

"So we have a number of different scenarios that we are [looking at] and that's certainly one that we are in conversations with New Zealand about."

Castle added: "If the governments don't let us travel and the governments don't open international borders to allow teams to come in to this environment, we might not have any choice but to review what the structures look like [in terms of] what we deliver at the back-end of this year and then potentially what we could deliver into '21.

"So it won't be driven by what SANZAAR want to do, it will be driven by what governments allow and which countries open up their borders at what times. And certainly all of the indications that we are getting from the Australian and New Zealand governments is that they are very proud of the fact that they've managed to control this very well and limited the damage and the loss of life, and they're not willing to open that up again quickly to risk that they go backwards again.

"So that's an overlay that we as a SANZAAR community have to be dealing with and those are conversations that are actively happening."

Steve Hansen has backed Warren Gatland's idea to stage a "decider" between the British and Irish Lions and New Zealand in 2021.

Gatland steered the Lions to a drawn series against Hansen's All Blacks in 2017 and will lead the team on a tour of South Africa next year.

The former Wales boss suggested a one-off match could be staged ahead of Tests against the Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks, in order to raise funds after the coronavirus pandemic.

While Hansen, who stepped down as All Blacks boss after the World Cup, stated such a game would not settle the 2017 series once and for all due to different personnel being involved, he believes it could be important to the sport's future.

"Well, it won't be a decider because it won't be the same people involved. But what he's really saying is let's have this game to try and help make some money for the game because the game is in trouble," Hansen told Wales Online.

"You have got one rugby nation, in the United States, who have gone bankrupt, we've got Australia on the brink, we know England have got a financial crisis, everybody will have because you are not getting paid the TV rights and those are what makes the game go round.

"The game is in financial crisis. People are struggling. So I think anything that allows us to create some income to support the game is important."

Hansen is now the director of rugby at Toyota Verblitz in Japan's Top League, which last month had its season cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The former All Blacks coach believes the suspension of rugby provides an opportunity to make sweeping changes for the good of the game.

"We have an opportunity now to start with a blank page because you have got everybody putting self-interest to the side," said Hansen.

"They know they could be gone if they don't do the right thing. So it's a great opportunity to bring everybody together, north, south, individual countries and do what it is right for the game. It's been a long time coming because it's been needed for quite some time.

"There has been a lot of self-interest and if we don't do the right thing we could lose the game and that would be a tragedy."

The Rugby Championship in 2020 could be held while the Super Rugby season is ongoing to make sure both take place, SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos has suggested.

This year's southern hemisphere tournament between Argentina, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand is due to be held between August 8 and September 27.

The domestic Super Rugby campaign is scheduled to finish with the final in June, but the coronavirus pandemic forced the season to be put on hold.

As organisers try to ensure both competitions can be staged in 2020, Marinos has proposed the idea of having them run in parallel, despite the drawback of Super Rugby teams having to give up international players during Test-match windows.

"Could you be playing the Rugby Championship at the same time as a domestic competition?" Marinos said via NewsHub.

"It's not trying to rubbish one for the other, it's how do we get a sensible solution in what may be a restricted time frame?

"Logic would suggest if there is an ability to create like what we've seen with the NRL around a bubble, if it's all in one location it seems a bit easier.

"At this point in time, we'd be silly to rule out anything. We are hell-bent and have every intention of delivering the complete package."

Scottish Rugby will discuss a salary reduction scheme with high-earning players and staff members as they deal with the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The governing body has confirmed it will continue to do whatever possible to support all clubs, though income streams are "badly affected" with no games staged at Murrayfield as the season remains suspended.

Scotland may also be unable to complete tours to South Africa and New Zealand in July, while there are even concerns over their home internationals scheduled for November, when they are due to play against Argentina, Japan and the All Blacks.

Fearing a potential loss of expected revenue in excess of £12million, chief executive Mark Dodson has agreed to take a 30 per cent pay cut until at least the start of September, while head coach Gregor Townsend agreed to a 25 per cent decrease last month.

A proportion of Scottish Rugby's staff will be placed into the government's furlough scheme, while players will be consulted over the possibility of reducing their wages as the organisation tries to cut costs amid the global health crisis.

"Our players and our coaches cannot fulfil any fixtures and the money we normally expect to make from the professional and international game at this time of the year, and over the summer, has all but disappeared due to the challenges beyond our control," Dodson said in a statement.

"No one knows with any certainty when any rugby can resume.

"We have seen many, many examples of our staff, clubs and players across the country supporting their local communities and demonstrating rugby's values in daily life.

"Rugby makes a positive contribution to society and it is this positivity and our whole sport working collectively that will give us the best opportunity to come through this crisis, safely, together."

Siya Kolisi says it is vital Nelson Mandela's legacy continues as the South Africa captain opened up on his role in helping the country fight coronavirus.

Kolisi, who skippered the Springboks to Rugby World Cup glory last year, was due to launch his foundation later in 2020.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has launched Kolisi into immediate action and he has partnered with others to make donations to provide vital supplies to frontline medical workers tackling the crisis.

An Instagram post from the flanker's foundation last week explained: "Whilst the Kolisi Foundation was months from launching with different projects in mind, we couldn't ignore the seriousness of COVID-19 so began to focus our energy and resources on supporting our frontline workers – supplying sanitisers and reusable masks. 

"We are thankful that we have been able to lean on our incredible partners to support the project and will look to partner with other established organisations in the future to guarantee our work is as impactful as possible, addressing hunger and other areas close to our heart."

Kolisi said part of his motivation is ensuring the work of former president Mandela continues.

"I just think his legacy must still continue, the rainbow nation he wanted to see,"he told BBC Breakfast.

"Actually working partnering up with the foundation, helping the frontline workers, we're all trying to attack the hunger and help the workers. 

"Just thinking of other people, the way he lived his life, he always wanted to make South Africa better, that's what we're trying to realise to make sure his legacy continues and because we have a beautiful country, so much potential, we can achieve so much. 

"Hopefully can inspire other people too."

Kolisi is drawing on his own experiences of playing as part of a team to aid a country that has had over 1,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and has one of the world's strictest lockdowns.

"It's really tough and I think playing in a team squad, this is going to be a team effort from everyone in South Africa and everyone in general, I think everybody has a role to play," he added. 

"It's a time for people to stay at home and not leave our houses, we have a complete lockdown our president has acted swiftly. 

"I think for people who are in a fortunate basis who can help others, food is a big problem at the moment, we're pushing hard on fighting the hunger, making sure people get meals there are a lot kids who go to school just to get one meal.

"I'm trying to provide for that and making sure we help as much as we can."

Wayde van Niekerk says it was "an amazing inspiration" to see South Africa win the Rugby World Cup – especially as the team contained friends and family.

The Springboks triumphed 32-12 over England in the final in Yokohama on November 2 last year to become world champions for the third time.

Olympic 400-metre champion and world-record holder Van Niekerk says the players deserve all the accolades and sponsorship bonuses they have received for their momentous success.

"It's been an amazing inspiration for not just myself but the entire country, and yet another spark for myself as a South African to want to achieve great things," he told Stats Perform.

"I'm quite close friends with a few players and it's great to see how their lives have changed and the blessings and the sponsors and so on that are coming their way. It's amazing, it's well deserved and it's great."

Van Niekerk is friends with several key South Africa players, including captain Siya Kolisi, and he is a cousin of Cheslin Kolbe.

Kolbe battled back from injury in time to play against England and went on to score the final try of the match, capping a terrific 2019 that saw him nominated alongside eventual winner Pieter-Steph du Toit for World Rugby's Player of the Year award.

Van Niekerk recalled: "Thinking back to Cheslin's final try: he's come through so much, moving to France, thinking that he wouldn't make the SA team, and just wanting to go and enjoy his rugby and then getting selected for the World Cup.

"The final try was amazing but let's be honest, his entire tournament, I feel like he was one of the players of the tournament and one of the highlights of the Rugby World Cup.

"I think it's such a blessing and such an amazing blessing to be associated with such great people, like Siya and Cheslin, it's lovely to be associated with them and draw off of them and use them as inspiration for myself, coming back from injury and wanting to do great things for my country the way they did."

Eddie Jones admits he will probably be walking away as a Rugby World Cup winner in three years if England live up to his lofty expectations.

It was announced on Thursday that the 60-year-old had signed a new contract to remain as England's coach through to the next World Cup, where his side will aim to go one better than they did last year.

A 32-12 loss to South Africa meant Jones and his squad left Japan disappointed but, having fielded the youngest ever team to play in a World Cup final, Jones is now looking to the future.

The Australian hopes his pursuit of perfection will result in his team lifting The Webb Ellis Cup in France in 2023.

"We want to become a great team, I think I have stated that fairly consistently," Jones said.

"We want to become a great team; we want to become one of those teams where people remember how you play for a period of time because that's the ache I have as a coach.

"I want a team that plays the perfect game of rugby and I want a team that can be remembered as a great team.

"I think we've got players within England to do that. I think the players have the hunger to do it. I think we're seeing periods of time where they have done it, but we haven't been able to do it consistently.

"The test of greatness is to do it consistently. With that comes results.

"If we're the greatest team then a World Cup medal's probably sitting in front of us. Our goal hasn't changed at all from what I stated at the start of this cycle and it will continue to be the same."

Jones has the best win percentage of any England coach in history, his team having won 78 per cent of his 54 Test matches in charge.

However, the defeat to the Springboks in the World Cup final has left him with a sense of unfinished business.

"Having done the four years, I felt the project hasn't been finished yet. There is still a lot of growth in the team," Jones added.

Eddie Jones has the best win ratio of any England coach, but the biggest prize eluded him last year.

England have won 42 of their 54 games (78 per cent) since Jones' appointment was confirmed in 2015.

On Thursday, the Rugby Football Union announced the 60-year-old had agreed a new deal that will run until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

We take a look at the highs and lows of Jones' time in charge.

 

HIGH - A 2016 GRAND SLAM

Jones' first tournament was a resounding success as England beat Scotland, crushed Italy and then edged past Ireland and Wales in the Six Nations.

A 31-21 triumph over France delivered the Six Nations and a first Grand Slam in 13 years.

"I'm very proud of the boys," Jones told BBC Sport. "It's a great achievement by the team. I always had confidence in them."

HIGH - A 3-0 SERIES WHITEWASH DOWN UNDER

Later that year England headed to Jones' homeland for a three-Test series, and the tremendous start continued for the former Wallabies coach.

Having scored 39 points in Brisbane, a record for England in Australia, a 23-7 victory in Melbourne earned Jones' side their first series success on Wallabies turf.

After a 44-40 win completed a series sweep, England captain Dylan Hartley said: "We can all be proud of what we have achieved."

 

LOW - IRISH END WINNING RUN

England arrived in Dublin in March 2017 seeking both a second successive Grand Slam and a world-record 19th straight victory.

Yet Ireland had other ideas, overwhelming the visitors and claiming a 13-9 win as Jones tasted defeat for the first time.

"I take full responsibility, I didn't prepare the team well and we will respond in the future," Jones said.

 

LOW - FIVE-GAME LOSING STREAK

Fast forward 15 months and things felt very, very different for Jones' side as they lost a fifth game in a row, going down 23-12 to South Africa.

England had lost the last three games of that year's Six Nations - beaten by Scotland, France and Ireland - before back-to-back defeats at the start of the three-Test series in South Africa.

"We're a bit like an old car at the moment - you fix one bit and another part breaks down," said Jones, who saw his team round out the tour with a 25-10 victory in Cape Town.

HIGH - OUSTING THE ALL BLACKS

No one had beaten New Zealand at a World Cup in a dozen years, yet the back-to-back champions were stunned 19-7 in the 2019 semi-finals.

It was perhaps the finest performance of the Jones era, Manu Tuilagi's early try setting England on their way to a famous victory over the All Blacks.

"They've been a great team so we had to dig really deep to beat them," said Jones, whose side advanced to a final against South Africa...

 

LOW - FALLING FLAT IN THE FINAL

A week later England were unable to conjure up another spectacular performance in Japan as South Africa's 32-12 victory meant they took home the Webb Ellis Cup.

Jones' side were simply not at the races, a raft of handling errors blighting their performance.

"That's the great thing about rugby; one day you're the best team in the world and the next a team knocks you off," Jones said.

Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive Bill Sweeney said boards across the world want to help Rugby Australia (RA) after it reported financial problems amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With rugby union leagues and competitions being shut down in a bid to combat the spread of COVID-19, RA stood down 75 per cent of its working staff for three months earlier this week, shortly after it had revealed a provisional deficit of 9.4 million Australian dollars in 2019.

USA Rugby has also filed for bankruptcy, claiming the suspensions caused by coronavirus, and the uncertainty about the future, had accelerated financial problems.

Sweeney conceded those announcements have caused concern among the world's unions, who are trying to collaborate on potential solutions to aid those struggling.

"The USA, quite frankly, were struggling somewhat before the crisis hit anyway – so they were perhaps the most vulnerable of anybody," Sweeney explained.

"I know World Rugby are in conversations with them in terms of how they can sustain the game in that country.

"Australia have been reported as being in a weaker position than a lot of others.

"There is an unprecedented amount of dialogue going on between all the unions and the relationship between the north and the south [hemispheres] has probably never been better, and we are just looking at various ways we can structure things that everybody can benefit and find solutions to these challenges ahead.

"It's in no one's interest for Australia to get into even more serious difficulties."

Eddie Jones' England are due to tour Japan in July for a two-Test series against the Brave Blossoms.

However, given the Olympics - staged in Tokyo - has already been put back a year to July 2021, it would appear unlikely England will embark on that tour when scheduled.

"We are in regular dialogue with World Rugby and a lot of the other unions as well around the world," Sweeney added.

"This is a conversation we are having around the July tours. It's a bit too early to say. We expect to be able to make a decision on that towards the end of April."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.