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."

Wales international James Davies will miss the rest of the season after Scarlets confirmed he is to undergo surgery on a hip injury.

The flanker has not played since he featured for his country in the bronze medal match at the Rugby World Cup in November.

It has now been confirmed Davies, who has not yet returned to full training, will require surgery to fix the ongoing issue.

Davies, who has made eight Test appearances for his country, will subsequently miss the rest of the 2019-20 campaign.

A Scarlets spokesperson said: "Unfortunately, James continues to struggle with a hip injury that has prevented his full return to training.

"A decision for surgical intervention to facilitate his recovery has been made. It is hoped that this will allow James to begin the 2020-21 season fit and healthy."

Amid the outbreak of coronavirus, the Pro14 season was suspended on Thursday until further notice.

Former Wales centre Matthew J Watkins has died at the age of 41, the Welsh Rugby Union has announced.

Watkins, who won 18 caps for his country, was diagnosed with pelvic cancer in 2013. The disease later spread to his head, Watkins revealed in January.

He began his career as a teenager with hometown club Newport, before moving on to Llanelli, becoming part of the Scarlets side in the early years of regional rugby in Wales.

Spells with Gloucester and the Dragons followed before Watkins retired in 2011. His first Wales cap came in 2003, against Italy.

The national team will wear black armbands against England in Saturday's Six Nations match in memory of Watkins.

The Scarlets said they were "deeply saddened" by news of Watkins' death, describing him as "a silky-skilled, creative midfielder, who was a hugely popular figure among our supporters, the playing squad and staff".

Expressing similar sorrow, the Dragons said Watkins, who raised many thousands of pounds for cancer charities, would "be missed by so many".

Liam Williams has left Saracens to join the Scarlets with immediate effect and his Wales team-mate Rhys Webb has signed for Bath for the rest of the season.

It was announced in December that British and Irish Lions full-back Williams will return to his homeland for a second spell with the Scarlets at the end of the current campaign.

Williams, who has not played since the Rugby World Cup due to an ankle injury, has been cleared to leave the European and Premiership champions earlier than initially planned, bringing to an end a hugely successful spell in London.

The 28-year-old won two Premiership titles and the European Champions Cup during his two-and-a-half year stay with Sarries, who will play in the Championship next year due to salary-cap breaches.

Scarlets head coach Brad Mooar said: "Liam is a world-class player and man, a huge favourite at Parc y Scarlets and we are thrilled to welcome Liam and Sophie back to the Scarlets.

"To have Liam joining our exciting group of outside backs this season is superb. I’m also thrilled for Liam that his rehab is almost complete. 

"Obviously, his immediate availability for us will depend on how Wayne wants to play it during the Six Nations and we look forward to seeing Liam back at Parc y Scarlets in due course."

Webb will spend the remainder of the 2019/20 campaign with Premiership side Bath ahead of a move to Ospreys.

The scrum-half was granted an early release from his Toulon contract at the end of last year and agreed to rejoin Ospreys on a two-year deal.

Webb, who made his Wales comeback in the Six Nations defeat of Italy this month, could make his debut in the derby against Bristol Bears on March 1.

 

Scarlets turned on the style in the final half hour to avoid an upset against Southern Kings, while Cardiff Blues fought back to defeat Benetton Treviso 34-24 in Pro14 on Sunday.

After being edged out by Edinburgh last time out, Scarlets found themselves trailing 17-12 to a Kings side with just one win to their name this season.

However, Ryan Conbeer converted his own try in the 51st minute and further scores from Uzair Cassiem, Dan Jones and Tom Rogers – on his first Pro14 home start – earned a 36-17 win at Parc y Scarlets.

The Blues were in a perilous position at half-time as tries from Ian Keatley, Irne Herbst and Toa Halafihi helped Treviso into a 19-7 lead – Jason Harries' providing the sole reply from Cardiff.

Garyn Smith and Ryan Edwards tries – the second of which was converted – levelled things up and, although Halafihi's second briefly put Treviso back ahead, Seb Davies and Lewis Jones crossed and Jason Tovey kicked five more points to seal the points for the Blues.

Luke Price booted the Ospreys to a stunning 26-24 victory over Ulster and Leinster maintained their 100 per cent Pro14 record by defeating the Cheetahs on Saturday.

The Ospreys had only one Pro14 victory to their name in the competition against Benetton Treviso back in October, but doubled their tally with a shock success as Storm Dennis battered Swansea.

Ulster, second in Conference A behind Leinster, came from 23-10 down to take a one-point lead courtesy of tries from Matt Faddes and Stuart McCloskey, Bill Johnston converting both scores in the space of nine minutes.

Scott Otten had scored a try in each half for the home side after Owen Watkin's five-pointer, but they looked set for more agony until Price split the posts with his third penalty of the match five minutes from time to lift the gloom.

The Leinster juggernaut rolled on at the RDS Arena, where Will Connors grabbed a double and there were also tries for Michael Bent, Ronan Kelleher and Rhys Ruddock in a commanding 36-12 victory.

Luan de Bruin and Aidon Davis crossed for the Cheetahs, third in Conference A, but they were soundly beaten by the defending champions.

Edinburgh completed a double over the Scarlets with a 14-9 win in Llanelli to return to the summit of Conference B, Duhan van der Merwe and Matt Scott scoring the only tries.

Connacht thumped Cardiff Blues 29-0, while the encounter between the Dragons and Treviso, due to be played at Rodney Parade, was called off due to the extreme weather conditions. 

The Scarlets have announced Glenn Delaney will take over from the departing Brad Mooar as head coach.

Delaney already works for the Pro14 club, serving as defence coach since his arrival from Super Rugby franchise the Highlanders last May.

However, the New Zealander – who previously had a spell in charge at London Irish - will be promoted to the top job once the 2019-20 season has come to a conclusion.

Mooar only joined last year to replace current Wales boss Wayne Pivac at Parc y Scarlets but is leaving the region to take up a role on the All Blacks' coaching staff.

"Since the news was confirmed that Brad was linking up with the All Blacks we have had a huge amount of interest in the post from all over the world," Jon Daniels, general manager of rugby, said.

"The head coach at the Scarlets is a sought-after position, with Brad and previously Wayne (Pivac) having progressed to the international stage.

"We have built a strong reputation based on the stability of our environment and the quality of players we have here.

"We have done our due diligence on all the candidates and it was Glenn who came through as the man to continue this journey we have started with Brad."

The Scarlets sit second in Conference B after 10 rounds of the Pro14 campaign, while they have also qualified for the quarter-finals of the European Rugby Challenge Cup.

John Cooney claimed an 18-point haul as Ulster beat Munster 38-17 and the Scarlets edged a derby win over Cardiff Blues to go top of Pro14 Conference B on Friday.

Ulster followed up their 35-3 thumping of Connacht with another commanding performance at Kingspan, outscoring Munster by five tries to two to sit six points behind Conference A leaders Leinster in second place.

Scrum-half Cooney made a statement on a night in which he came up against Ireland's first-choice scrum-half Conor Murray, while it proved to be a miserable first start of the season for fit-again Munster fly-half Joey Carbery.

Shane Daly's try put Munster, beaten by champions Leinster last time out, in front but Cooney and Robert Baloucoune crossed at the other end, both scores converted by Cooney after he was also on target with a penalty.

Carbery's penalty reduced the deficit to 17-10 at the break, but Ulster ran away with it in the second half to maintain their unbeaten home record in the competition this season, Matty Rea, Stuart McCloskey and Jacob Stockdale touching down in a bonus-point triumph.

Gareth Davies scored his 50th Scarlets try as the Welsh region won 16-14 at Cardiff Arms Park to replace Munster at the summit. 

Davies reached the landmark in style in the first half with a stunning solo score and Leigh Halfpenny scored the other points for the visitors from the tee as tries from Owen Lane and Josh Adams proved to be in vain for the Blues.

Scarlets have no plans to allow Leigh Halfpenny to leave despite capturing Wales international Liam Williams.

Williams will return to Scarlets at the end of the season after his contract with Premiership champions Saracens expires.

However, Pro14 side Scarlets – who thrashed Ospreys 44-0 on Boxing Day – do not plan for Williams to replace his Wales team-mate Halfpenny, who can play at either wing or full-back, and whose deal runs out next year.

"We have got Liam and our intention is to have Leigh as well," said general manager of rugby Jon Daniels, in quotes reported by BBC Sport.

"That has been the message in our discussions with the Welsh Rugby Union around this. There is plenty of top-quality rugby in a season for two international players in the same position.

"If you look at teams who have historically been successful on a number of fronts over a number of years they have that strength in depth.

"That is our aspiration and what we are building here."

Scarlets will also be in need of a new head coach, with Brad Mooar returning to New Zealand at the end of the season to become part of Ian Foster's coaching staff.

The Scarlets halted a two-match losing streak in the Pro14 in style by thrashing the Ospreys 44-0, while Cardiff Blues edged out the Dragons in the Welsh derbies on Boxing Day.

Following confirmation of Liam Williams' return from Saracens at the end of the season, Scarlets put on a show in a rampant win over their rivals.

It is now 10 defeats in a row in all competitions for Ospreys, who were 20-0 down at the break, with half of Scarlets' first-half points coming via the boot of Leigh Halfpenny.

Steff Evans and Ryan Conbeer went over in the first half, and both players doubled their tallies prior to the hour mark, with Kieran Hardy and Josh Macleod also crossing to complete the rout and lift Scarlets up to second in Conference B.

In the other match of the day, Cardiff claimed the bragging rights with a closely fought 16-12 triumph over the Dragons.

The visiting Dragons managed two tries to the Blues' one, but accurate kicking from Jarrod Evans and a final penalty from Jason Tovey gave Cardiff a four-point lead heading into the closing stages.

Dragons' hopes of a comeback were made slimmer when Ashton Hewitt was sin-binned with 10 minutes remaining and Cardiff held firm to claim a fourth straight win.

Liam Williams' much-anticipated return from Saracens to the Scarlets has been confirmed by the Pro14 side.

Wales full-back Williams, who is still recovering from an injury sustained during the Rugby World Cup, left the Scarlets to join Saracens in 2017.

The 28-year-old has subsequently helped Sarries to two successive Premiership titles, along with a European Champions Cup triumph last season.

However, Williams – who on Saturday appeared to confirm the move on his official Twitter account – will return to the Pro14 with his former club after his contract at Saracens expires at the end of the season.

"I've thoroughly enjoyed my time at Saracens over the past three seasons," Williams said.

"The environment has undoubtedly developed me as a player and a person. I am grateful for the support I've had from the players, management and supporters during this time."

Before Williams leaves Saracens, he will be tasked with attempting to help the champions retain their Premiership status.

Saracens are 17 points adrift at the foot of the table, having been fined £5.36million and deducted 35 points for breaching salary cap rules.

Brad Mooar will leave the Scarlets at the end of his first season in charge to complete the New Zealand coaching staff.

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) on Tuesday confirmed an agreement had been reached with the Welsh region, who will be paid compensation for head coach Mooar to return to his homeland in June.

The former Crusaders assistant coach will assist new All Blacks boss Ian Foster and take the role of attack coach.

Foster last week brought in John Plumtree to look after the forwards and Greg Feek as scrum coach, while also retaining Scott McLeod to coach the defence. 

The All Blacks head coach, who replaced Steve Hansen after New Zealand's failure to win an unprecedented third successive Rugby World Cup, said: "We're delighted to have Brad confirmed to join us.

"I know the new coaching group is excited and keen to get into their work next season and we'll look forward to welcoming Brad in following his commitments with Scarlets.

"On behalf of the All Blacks, I'd also like to thank Scarlets for their understanding around Brad's release. It is very much appreciated."

Mooar said: "To be joining the All Blacks coaching staff next year is an incredibly humbling and proud moment for my family and me.

"The opportunity to help coach your country comes around very rarely, so I would like to thank the Scarlets club for allowing me to join the All Blacks.

"Similarly, I’d like to thank Ian Foster and NZR not only for this opportunity, but also to finish the season with the Scarlets."

Mooar joined the Scarlets at the end of the 2019 Super Rugby season following Wayne Pivac's appointment as Wales head coach.

Glasgow Warriors edged out Pro14 rivals Edinburgh 20-16 in the opening match of the 1872 Cup thanks to a late try from George Turner.

A full-blooded encounter at Scotstoun – in which five yellows were shown – was settled when Turner went over with five minutes remaining.

Turner's try capped off a frantic flurry of action, with Ali Price having gone in under the sticks before Blair Kinghorn put Edinburgh 16-13 up.

But having already been reduced to 14 men for the third time when Nic Groom was sent to the sin-bin prior to Turner's try, Edinburgh could not mount a late comeback.

Elsewhere, Munster retained top spot in Conference B thanks to a 19-14 win over second-place Connacht.

JJ Hanrahan was the key man for Munster, kicking 14 points, with Jack O'Donoghue scoring what proved to be the decisive try.

There was late drama as the Ospreys hosted Cardiff Blues, as Jason Tovey's penalty secured a 19-16 win for the visitors, who had three players sent to the sin-bin.

A last-gasp drop goal from Sam Davies gave Dragons a slender 22-20 victory over Scarlets, while Benetton defeated fellow Italian side Zebre 13-8.

Liam Williams has seemingly confirmed reports he has agreed to leave Saracens and rejoin Scarlets at the end of the season.

Wales full-back Williams – who is recovering from an ankle injury suffered during the Rugby World Cup – joined Saracens in 2017.

The 28-year-old's contract is due to expire at the end of the 2019-20 campaign and reports on Friday claimed he was set to move back to Scarlets.

Though the impending switch has not been officially confirmed, Williams replied to a tweet questioning why he had opted to rejoin his former side and leave the reigning Premiership and European champions.

He wrote: "Because home is home."

Williams would be the first high-profile departure from Saracens since they were fined £5.36million and deducted 35 points for breaching salary cap rules.

The Scarlets have confirmed they have held discussions with New Zealand Rugby over Brad Mooar joining the All Blacks coaching staff.

Mooar is in his first season with the Pro14 club after replacing new Wales boss Wayne Pivac.

The former Crusaders assistant coach's stay in Wales could be short, though, as he is wanted by newly-appointed All Blacks head coach Ian Foster.

Llanelli-based club the Scarlets on Saturday revealed talks had taken place over a potential return home for Mooar, but negotiations are only at an early stage.

"We have been made aware that newly-appointed All Blacks head coach Ian Foster would like Scarlets head coach Brad Mooar to join his New Zealand coaching team at the end of the 2019-20 season," said a Scarlets statement.

"Discussions between the Scarlets and New Zealand Rugby are at an early stage and we are unable to comment further until those discussions are concluded.

"In the meantime, Brad, the coaching team and playing group, are firmly focused on this evening's crucial European Challenge Cup match against Bayonne, followed by the big Welsh derby matches over the festive season."

The Scarlets are fourth in Pro14 Conference B and occupy second spot in Challenge Cup Pool 2 ahead of their clash with Bayonne.

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