The European Champions Cup semi-finals and final have been postponed by European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Matches at the same stages of the Challenge Cup have also been postponed.

The EPCR Board held a conference call on Monday to discuss the move and confirmed their decision on Tuesday.

They remain committed to completing the two competitions despite the COVID-19 outbreak, which has had a devastating impact on global sporting schedules.

But the 2020 finals in Marseille will not take place on May 22 and 23 as scheduled, while the semi-finals originally due to be held across May 1, 2 and 3 will also be moved.

The April quarter-finals had already been postponed and all three of the remaining rounds will be rescheduled in collaboration with the continent's major leagues.

"In making the decision, the board is abiding by the official directives and recommendations of the relevant authorities in its territories to restrict the COVID-19 pandemic," read the EPCR statement.

"In light of the earlier postponement of its quarter-final matches and with fixtures in Europe's professional league competitions currently suspended due to the public health crisis, EPCR believes it necessary to provide as much clarity as possible to all stakeholders regarding the knockout stages of its tournaments.

"To that end, EPCR is working with the leagues and unions to restructure a conclusion to its season as part of a wider rescheduling of the remainder of the season in Europe, with all contingencies underpinned by the requirement to protect the health and welfare of players, club staff, match officials, supporters and the wider rugby community.

"It is planned to reschedule the quarter-final and semi-final matches, as well as the Marseille finals, in line with fixtures in the professional league competitions, subject to advice from government and local authorities."

Fans will be entitled to a refund if they are unable to attend on the rearranged dates.

Plans for a domestic competition as part of a way to continue the Super Rugby season have been put on hold, Rugby Australia (RA) confirmed on Monday.

The Super Rugby campaign was suspended earlier this month due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to stricter travel measures.

A remodelled domestic competition was "in the final stages of approvals" with plans to start on April 3, but has been suspended until at least May 1. A further review will follow in mid-April.

"Rugby Australia and the Super Rugby teams have made the decision today to suspend the start of the revised competition on the latest guidance from the various government and health authorities and our chief medical officer," RA chief executive Raelene Castle said in a statement.

"Our priority is the health and welfare of our athletes and our wider rugby community as we continue to adapt to an unprecedented and constantly-evolving situation for our game and society.

"The decision to postpone the restart of the competition until May 1 is in line with the suspension of all community rugby in Australia and will give us the opportunity to review our position across the whole rugby landscape in a month's time.

"Our message to the entire rugby community today is to follow the advice of the government and health authorities. We must do whatever it takes to stop the spread of the virus. The spirit of the rugby community is a powerful force, and the only way out of this crisis is to work together and look out for each other.

"While this is having an unprecedented impact on our sport and many other sports, this is bigger than sport and that is why we will continue to put the health and welfare of our people above anything else."

Exeter Chiefs prop Harry Williams has signed a new "long-term" contract with the Premiership leaders.

Williams, capped 18 times by England, has made almost 100 appearances for the Chiefs since his move from Championship side Jersey Reds.

The 28-year-old is set to add many more after agreeing a new deal.

"It was an easy decision to make," said Williams. "I've been here five years now and I'm very happy down here. Ever since I came to the club, it's been awesome and I've loved pretty much every minute of it.

"I knew when I left Jersey that I was moving to an ambitious club, who would bring the best out of me and challenge me in a testing environment. That's been the case from day one, but I still feel there is still more to come from me."

The Chiefs did not disclose details of the length of Williams' latest contract.

The uncompromising Williams says Rob Baxter's men are determined to scale new heights when the season resumes after being halted due to the coronavirus outbreak.

"I think for everyone at the club, we're not happy sitting on our laurels and just accepting that we're going do this and that," added Williams.

"As a professional, you always feel you can kick on and get more out of yourselves. Here at Exeter, everything is laid out for us and the club give us a great foundation from which to build.

"I'll admit, when I first came here I didn't really have any so-called affiliation with the club or the city. Now, it's pretty much home for me and I'm looking forward to what the future holds."

March 22 is probably not a date that is circled in the calendars for South Africa cricket fans and Steven Gerrard.

Those of a Proteas persuasion will remember it as the day their rotten luck at Cricket World Cups began.

Whereas for Liverpool legend Gerrard it was the afternoon the red mist descended in one of the biggest club rivalries.

We take a look at the major events that happened on this day in sport.

 

1906 - The first rugby union international between France and England

The Parc des Prince hosted the inaugural Le Crunch as England defeated France 35-8, beginning a 16-game winless run in the fixture for Les Bleus.

A 24-17 victory for France in the Six Nations last month gave them their 41st win in the 106 meetings between the two nations.

England have beaten Les Bleus on 58 occasions, including in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals in 2003 and 2007. 

1992 - Proteas eliminated from Cricket World Cup in farcical fashion

No one does Cricket World Cup semi-final heartache quite like South Africa.

There was the dramatic 1999 tie against Australia that resulted in the Proteas being eliminated due to an inferior net run rate at the Super Six stage. Then, six years ago, Grant Elliott's heroics helped New Zealand reach the final.

But perhaps nothing compares to the farce of 1992, when South Africa fell foul of new rain rules.

When the heavens opened and play was stopped, South Africa needed 22 runs from 13 balls to beat England.

However, when they returned, the implementation of some bizarre rules meant they required an insurmountable 21 off one delivery. The rules were soon scrapped, but that was no shred of comfort to South Africa.

 

2015 - Steven Gerrard sent off 38 seconds after coming on against Manchester United

It was a case of 'Gone in 38 seconds' for Liverpool captain Gerrard five years ago as he made an unforgettable immediate impact.

Shortly after coming on as a half-time substitute in the Premier League match at Anfield, Gerrard stamped on Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera, prompting referee Martin Atkinson to send him off the field moments after he had arrived.

"I need to accept it; the decision was right," Gerrard told Sky Sports after. "I've let down my team-mates and the fans."

United, who were leading 1-0 at the time, claimed a 2-1 victory thanks to Juan Mata's brace.

Michael Fatialofa has walked unaided as he continues to recover from the serious injury he suffered in January, with his wife claiming it is a "miracle". 

The Worcester Warriors lock sustained the spinal injury during a Premiership match against Saracens on January 4 and spent four weeks at St Mary's Hospital in London, with three weeks of those in intensive care.

After being transferred to a specialist spinal clinic at the Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital, Fatialofa took his first steps back to recovery in February, posting a video to Instagram that showed the 27-year-old lifting his legs without support and taking steps with the aid of staff.

Now, Fatialofa has continued his rehabilitation as he walked without assistance in a video shared by his wife Tatiana on Instagram.

"You're witnessing a miracle that even medical professionals can't explain," she said.

"They are so shook by his progress given his critical level of injury.

"He was literally paralysed from the neck down just 10 weeks ago and currently spinal cord injuries do not have a clinical cure, but my amazing husband is proof that God is never limited to human wisdom. So, so, so thankful."

Fatialofa was diagnosed with a spinal concussion and had surgery to relieve pressure on the spinal cord.

Though Fatialofa continues to make progress, the coronavirus outbreak – which has caused the suspension of the Premiership season until at least April 14 – means visiting hours will be reduced.

"We've been advised by the hospital that visiting probably will be reduced to only one hour soon and while I understand completely it's still so hard on the heart," his wife added.

Players from Wasps, Worcester Warriors and Gloucester have taken a 25 per cent pay cut due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Premiership season was suspended on Monday for five weeks due to COVID-19.

With a loss of revenue as a result of no games being played, Wasps have lowered wages by a quarter from April 1 until Premiership action resumes, though a number of lower paid staff will be excluded from the reductions.

"I spoke with [head coach] Lee Blackett and senior members of the playing squad last night, and we then communicated this message to the wider team and colleagues," Wasps CEO Stephen Vaughan said in an open letter to fans, partners, staff and the community.

"I could not be more proud of their response, understanding and determination to help the club in such testing times. The same is true of the players' efforts to support our wider community stay connected and keep talking, which I am sure you will be aware of."

Worcester have lowered wages by the same margin, also effective from the start of next month. The cut will not apply to staff below a certain salary threshold, though.

"We have offered as much support as we can to any member of staff who may suffer particular hardship as a consequence," the Warriors added in a statement on the club's website.

Gloucester confirmed they have taken the move amid the global pandemic to help them through "this incredibly challenging time".

Meanwhile, the Rugby Football Union on Friday confirmed the season is over for all levels below the Premiership.

Western Force have been handed an unlikely route back into Super Rugby after Rugby Australia announced a new domestic competition that will start next month.

Super Rugby has been suspended in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with travel restrictions making a league featuring teams from five nations unworkable.

Rugby Australia has stepped in to launch a home and away round robin series, beginning on April 3 and featuring its four Super Rugby franchises – the Brumbies, Rebels, Reds and Waratahs – and the Force.

Western Force have competed in Australia's National Rugby Championship since the Perth-based team had their Super Rugby license dissolved in acrimonious circumstances in 2017.

The inclusion of Western Force effectively heralds the end of the Sunwolves' involvement in Super Rugby, with SANZAAR having announced its intention to cut the Japanese franchise from 2021 after the Japanese Rugby Football Union withdrew funding.

Matches will be played behind closed doors in the new competition, for which a fixture list is yet to be finalised.

Rugby Australia expects South Africa and New Zealand to roll out similar domestic competitions, with decisions over how these might relate to Super Rugby and any potential finals series to be discussed in due course.

“Rugby Australia, the four Australian Super Rugby teams and RUPA [Rugby Union Players' Association] are united behind the continuation of Super Rugby in 2020 and have been intensively working towards a competition solution with our SANZAAR partners over the past six days," said Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle.

"There are still some elements to work through as a group, but we are extremely confident that we will deliver a meaningful product for the remainder of the season for fans and broadcasters.

“We have agreed on the principles of proceeding down the path of a domestic solution in Australia which will see our teams compete against each other in a round robin format from April through June, followed by a yet to be determined Finals Series format."

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson is confident the organisation has the cash reserves to cope with the restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Super Rugby was suspended for two weeks after New Zealand tightened its borders in response to the proliferation of COVID-19, with prime minister Jacinda Arden announcing on Thursday only citizens and residents would be permitted access.

It has been suggested teams from each of Super Rugby's participating nations could play derbies to enable to competition to continue, though such a plan is yet to be announced.

With teams facing huge losses in revenue, Robinson suggested New Zealand Rugby are in a position where they can help teams bear the brunt of the damage.

"We're working through those scenarios as we speak. There are a number of different scenarios … essentially we've got to make this work," said Robinson, via Stuff.

"We own the responsibility for the future financial viability of the game, we know we've got some incredibly challenging times and some significant headwinds in front of us but we're confident we can work through it."

Rob Nichol, head of the New Zealand Rugby Players' Association, acknowledged players may be forced to accept pay cuts, but Robinson said it was too early to tell if that would be required.

"That's a question for the future," said Robinson. "I know Rob has come out with an initial view on that. We haven't had any detailed conversations with the players.

"I'd stress they've been fantastic so far in how proactive they've been in terms of seeking solutions through all this, and we'll continue to work with them.

"But that's not something we're focused on right now. In due course it might be a conversation we pick up at a later date."

New Zealand has seen 28 cases of coronavirus infection but no deaths.

Pieter-Steph du Toit could have required a leg amputation had it not been for the diligent work of Stormers team doctor Jason Suter, according to coach John Dobson.

World Rugby Player of the Year Du Toit limped out of the Super Rugby defeat to the Blues last month with what did not appear to be a serious injury.

However, a rapid diagnosis from the Stormers medical team at Newlands made it clear that the South Africa flanker's career was in doubt, but he is only set to be out for three months after undergoing surgery.

Dobson said: "Doc deserves enormous credit for Pieter-Steph, had a rugby player lost his leg it would have been devastating for the game. 

"And if it wasn't for the timely intervention then I think [he could have lost his leg]... almost half of the 43 reported cases [worldwide] had resulted in that."

Suter said it took less than 15 minutes to understand the extent of Rugby World Cup-winner Du Toit's injury. 

"He had a medical emergency after the Blues game. He had a haematoma that developed into an acute compartment syndrome. It's incredibly rare - there have been only 43 [cases] listed in the literature." Suter said.

He added: "It's a medical emergency because if you don't pick it up early they lose blood supply to the leg and they lose the leg.

"Within 15 minutes of him coming off the field and assessing him, we realised that he was at risk of this particular rare condition. 

"He was taken straight to Vincent Pallotti [Hospital], where he had a vascular surgeon waiting and he was operated on that night.

"It's very unusual, very rare but they had to cut through the muscle to release the pressure and they were only able to close that leg 10 days after his initial injury."

Few sporting events have been able to escape the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with public gatherings prohibited in many countries across the world.

So, with precious little live sporting events to keep fans entertained, many are looking to the past to satisfy those cravings.

Whether you hark back to specific 'Premier League Years', your favourite World Cups or that time your favourite tennis player lost in the Wimbledon final, nostalgia often has a big part to play in our love of sport.

Below, we picked out five noteworthy events from the world of sport that happened on this day – March 17.

 

1955 – The Richard Riot

Maurice Richard would not have known at the time just how much of an impact his actions on March 13, 1955 would have. A star of the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL, Richard struck a linesman during a match and was consequently banned for the rest of the season. Fans insisted it was too harsh, claiming the sanction was motivated by Richard's French-Canadian heritage. NHL president Clarence Campbell attended the Canadiens' next match and that sparked a riot, which was not contained to the Montreal Forum stadium. A reported $100,000 worth of damage was done, 37 people were injured and 100 arrests we made. Richard cooled the controversy as he accepted the punishment.

1977 – Australia win Centenary Test

Australia and England played out the Centenary Test on March 17, 1977, marking the 100th anniversary of what is considered to be the first Test cricket match. Starting on March 12 and concluding five days later, Australia won by 45 runs, the exact same margin of victory they recorded 100 years earlier.

1984 – Scotland end Five Nations wait

Scotland enjoyed a momentous day in rugby union on March 17, 1984. A 21-12 win over France at Murrayfield saw them clinch their first outright Five Nations win – and Triple Crown – since 1938, and their first Grand Slam since 1925, with Peter Dods' kicking proving decisive on the day. Scotland have only been the solitary winners of the competition – in either its previous guise or as the Six Nations – twice since.

2012 – Fabrice Muamba collapses in FA Cup match

English football was rocked on March 17, 2012, when Bolton Wanderers midfielder Muamba collapsed on the pitch during a televised FA Cup clash at Tottenham. The former England Under-21 player had suffered a cardiac arrest and it was later revealed his heart stopped for 78 minutes. Two days later, Muamba's heart was beating once again without assistance and he was eventually discharged from hospital on April 16. Although he had to retire early, Muamba has since gone into youth coaching.

2019 – McIlroy wins golf's biggest cash prize

This time last year, Rory McIlroy took home what was at the time the biggest purse in golfing history. At the 2019 Players Championship in Sawgrass, McIlroy carded rounds of 67, 65, 70 and 70 to finish 16 under and edge out Jim Furyk by a shot, clinching a pay cheque of $2.25m – the single biggest monetary prize handed out in golf at that point. However, the $3m Jon Rahm took home for winning the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai later that year set a new benchmark.

The Premiership has been suspended for five weeks and the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Premiership Rugby's decision followed new guidance from the United Kingdom government on Monday.

British prime minister Boris Johnson encouraged people to avoid mass gatherings and all "non-essential" travel and contact with others.

"The safety of our fans, players and staff is our first priority, and we would like to wish all of those who are affected our heartfelt best wishes and a very speedy recovery," a Premiership Rugby statement read.

"We'll continue to work closely with DCMS [the Departure for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] and Public Health England, and to follow the advice of medical experts, and work with our clubs to help them to support their own wider communities at this time."

The decision to call off the European rugby season was taken during a conference call on Monday.

It means the matches in the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup scheduled for April 3, 4 and 5 will not now go ahead as planned, although organisers hope to rearrange the fixtures for later dates.

In a statement, the board of European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) said: "While respecting all further directives by governments and local authorities, EPCR, in conjunction with the relevant leagues and unions, remains committed to trying to find a solution which will enable it to complete the 2019-20 Champions Cup and Challenge Cup tournaments at such a time as that aligns with preventative measures undertaken by an overwhelming majority of sport's governing bodies and tournament organisers in Europe.  

"EPCR's priority is the health and welfare of players and club staff, and an update regarding the knockout stages of the tournaments will be communicated to all stakeholders as soon as practicable."

The world's leading sporting competitions have been halted amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With almost 160,000 confirmed cases of the virus and close to 6,000 deaths, athletes across the globe are waiting to learn when they will return to work.

We take a look at the provisional return dates set out so far.
 

BASKETBALL

The NBA came to a sudden stop when a Utah Jazz player - later revealed to be Rudy Gobert - tested positive on Wednesday, and league commissioner Adam Silver warned the hiatus would "be most likely at least 30 days".

CRICKET

International cricket has been pushed back, but there are no firm dates as things stand for rescheduled matches. England's two-match Test tour of Sri Lanka was called off midway through a warm-up match, while the ODI series between India and South Africa was postponed after the first of three matches was washed out. Australia won an opening ODI against New Zealand behind closed doors, but the remaining two 50-over matches were delayed, along with a three-match Twenty20 series. There is at least a provisional date for the Indian Premier League to belatedly start: April 15, pushed back from March 29.

FOOTBALL

European football is at a standstill, with the Champions League among the elite-level competitions suspended. UEFA is set to meet to discuss the future of that tournament and Euro 2020 this week, while FIFA has advised postponements of upcoming international fixtures, for which clubs are no longer required to release their players. The Premier League, LaLiga and Serie A are all paused at least until April 3 although the Bundesliga has only called off one matchweek as things stand, while Ligue 1 is off "until further notice".

GOLF

The PGA Tour initially announced a three-week suspension, with The Players Championship stopped after its opening round. The Masters - won in 2019 by Tiger Woods - was therefore set to mark the Tour's return on April 9, but organisers soon announced the first major of the year would also be postponed. The RBC Heritage on April 16 is the next scheduled tournament. Organisers are planning "regular status updates in the coming weeks" amid "a very fluid situation that requires constant review, communication, and transparency".

MOTORSPORT

The Formula One season is still to start after races in Australia, Bahrain, Vietnam and China were postponed or cancelled. The Dutch Grand Prix on May 3 remains on at this stage, however, while managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn has suggested the calendar could be reshuffled, with races held in August. NASCAR has postponed events in Atlanta and Miami this and next weekend, and all IndyCar Series races through April have been cancelled.

RUGBY

Rugby league has largely been able to continue both in England and in Australia, but the same is not true of rugby union. Six Nations matches were among the first to fall by the wayside amid the crisis in Italy, with the Azzurri seeing matches against both Ireland and England postponed until later in the year. France versus Ireland was off, too, while Scotland's trip to Wales belatedly followed suit. Club action has ground to a halt, with Super Rugby finally paused this weekend and no return imminent.

TENNIS

After Indian Wells and then the Miami Open were cancelled, the ATP Tour announced its suspension up to and including the week of April 20. The WTA Tour preferred to call off individual events, but the schedule is now clear for five weeks. It was still to make a decision on the European clay-court season. The Fed Cup finals and play-offs - set for mid-April - have been pushed back, meanwhile, with the ITF vowing to address any impact the postponement may have on players' eligibility for Tokyo 2020.

OTHERS

Despite chaos surrounding various sports across the globe, Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe says the country is still planning for the Olympic Games in Tokyo to go ahead as scheduled in July. The London Marathon and the Boston Marathon will both still go ahead this year, but with revised dates of October 4 and September 14, respectively. The Giro d'Italia will be postponed and a new date for the race will not be announced until at least April 3 when a decree in Italy banning sport ends. The NBA is not the only American competition to be disrupted, meanwhile, with the 2020 MLB season moved back "at least two weeks" from March 26, and the NHL campaign paused indefinitely.

Rugby Australia has shut down its Sydney headquarters for two days after two members of the sevens programme went into self-isolation over coronavirus concerns.

RA announced on Sunday that the pair experienced symptoms after attending the High Performance centre within its Moore Park headquarters during the past week. They will be tested for coronavirus with the results expected in the next 72 hours.

As a result, the facility will now be closed for an intensive clean with all administrative staff advised to work from home.

An RA statement read: "Rugby Australia has implemented a stringent policy with regards to any player or staff member that experiences symptoms associated with the virus.

"The policy concerns any person who starts to exhibit signs and symptoms of the virus that has recently travelled overseas to any country or has been in direct contact with someone known to have the virus. The person must self-isolate for 14 days and be tested for COVID-19."

The Brumbies eased past Australian rivals the Waratahs 47-14 in the final game before the Super Rugby hiatus due to coronavirus.

SANZAAR announced the competition would be paused following this weekend's matches amid the COVID-19 outbreak, which continues to disrupt sport around the world.

The Sharks managed to play their game on Saturday, beating South African rivals the Stormers 24-14, while the Jaguares-Highlanders clash was cancelled.

The Brumbies and Waratahs managed to take to the field on Sunday, with the former cruising to victory at GIO Stadium in Canberra.

Tom Wright and Solomone Kata scored two tries apiece to lead the Brumbies to their fourth consecutive victory over the Waratahs, whose slim finals chances were dealt a major blow.

The visiting Waratahs twice led the derby in the first half through captain Rob Simmons and Mark Nawaqanitawase, but on both occasions, they were pegged back by the Brumbies.

A quick-fire Kata double and Cadeyrn Neville's try gave the Brumbies – who lost captain Allan Alaalatoa to an arm injury after half-an-hour – a 21-14 half-time lead.

The Australian Conference-leading Brumbies added another four tries in the second half thanks to Wright, Joe Powell and Tom Banks – Noah Lolesio finishing with four conversions.

The coronavirus pandemic continued to wreak havoc on the sporting calendar on Saturday with more major events and competitions being disrupted.

With the outbreak of COVID-19 rapidly spreading across the globe, it has resulted in the postponement of competitions worldwide as governments attempt to combat the pandemic.

A small number of events still went ahead, but sports stars, teams and indeed supporters were otherwise left to find other means of entertainment.

With the number of confirmed cases worldwide now totalling over 155,000, we round up all the latest news and updates.

 

Germany's prestige friendly with Italy later this month became the latest football fixture to bite the dust, with the majority of upcoming international matches having now been wiped out.

More major organisations have halted all footballing activities until a later date, including Qatar, Morocco and Egypt.

A small number of competitions, most notably the A-League, Russian Premier League and Mexico's Liga MX, did manage to go ahead as planned.

Indeed, NRL games also avoided the cut, as did a handful of Super Rugby matches before an indefinite ban was put in place later in the day.

Another competition to fall was Australia's one-day international series against New Zealand, which was already being played behind closed doors.

With New Zealand's government introducing strict protocols to attempt to slow the spread of the virus, the Black Caps – along with Super Rugby side Highlanders – returned home from Australia and Argentina respectively in order to beat the new restrictions, which will mean any new arrival to the country, even if they are a citizen, has to self-isolate for 14 days.

With the top-four tiers of English football being shelved until at least early April, there was plenty of focus on the National League as six games were given the green light.

There was some controversy in Argentina as River Plate's Copa Superliga clash with Atletico Tucuman was suspended after the home side refused to open their stadium.

Independiente's tie with Velez Sarsfield was played out in full, albeit behind closed doors, with the hosts claiming a 1-0 victory.

In Italy, Napoli urged their supporters to sing from their balconies in unison as Fiorentina's Patrick Cutrone and two more Sampdoria players tested positive for COVID-19.

Manchester City's Benjamin Mendy revealed a negative test result after recently self-isolating, but Carlo Ancelotti and Angelo Ogbonna questioned the Premier League's handling of the outbreak, while Jordan Pickford denied reports he is self-isolating.

West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady, meanwhile, claimed the competition should be "void" – a suggestion Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher quickly dismissed.

The lack of football did not stop certain clubs from keeping supporters entertained, though, with LaLiga side Leganes posting live updates of a fictitious match against Real Valladolid, which they won 2-1.

Perhaps inspired by their Spanish counterparts, Southampton got Manchester City involved in an online game of noughts and crosses to help fill the void.

The downtime also gave football stars a chance to recuperate, with Sergio Ramos and Alexis Sanchez among those to post images of their extra-curricular activities.

Others, such as Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and FIFA president Gianni Infantino, opted to use social media to educate their followers on how to properly wash their hands, while Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi used his profile to echo the sentiments of Cristiano Ronaldo in calling for people to follow the guidance of health organisations.

As Ronaldo and Jurgen Klopp were praised by the World Health Organisation for "protecting people from coronavirus", former United States president Barack Obama hailed a host of NBA stars – including Giannis Antetokounmpo and Zion Williamson – for donating large amounts to help support arena staff during the league's hiatus.

UFC superstar Conor McGregor labelled the pandemic "a stupid f****** virus", but later moved to clarify his aunt did not die after contracting the disease after previously suggesting as such.

And in more positive news, Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe revealed his country still plan for the 2020 Olympic Games to go ahead in Tokyo, starting in late July.

The International Olympic Committee will have the final say, but ABE is confident the Games will be staged "without problem".

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