New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has announced wage cuts for its staff as it faces up to huge losses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and confirmed its five Super Rugby franchises will receive grants.

Reports suggest the governing body could lose out on 100million New Zealand dollars in revenue.

Chief executive Mark Robinson said NZR staff and its board are taking a 40 per cent cut for at least three months.

It follows similar measures taken by other top-tier rugby nations.

"It's an incredibly challenging time, we have fantastic rugby people all around the country at the moment dealing with difficult financial circumstances," Robinson told reporters.

NZR also confirmed its Super Rugby teams will receive an emergency grant to help ensure they are prepared for when the competition can resume.

"An emergency NZR grant of $250,000 each is to be made available to all Super Rugby clubs for the next three months which is seen as a critical supplement to other financing options or levers being considered by the clubs," Robinson added.

"Super Rugby is a vital part of our rugby eco-system and has a solid 25-year track record as a strong and admired rugby competition that has valuable intellectual property and a legacy of world-class rugby.

"These decisions are about protecting the core capability of the Super Rugby clubs so that they are ready to hit the ground running if Super Rugby resumes later this year, and also be in a position to revive and participate in Super Rugby in whatever shape it takes in 2021 and beyond.

"The Super Rugby clubs and NZR have also agreed to pause the negotiation of Super Rugby franchise licenses and use this time to review the business principles and governance of the competition so that the future of the clubs is sustainable, and they are match ready."

The British and Irish Lions have no concerns that the rescheduling of the Tokyo Olympic Games will overshadow the tour of South Africa next year.

It was announced on Monday that the Games in Japan will be staged from July 23 to August 8, 2021 after being postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Lions start the three-Test series against world champions South Africa on July 24, with further showdowns to come on July 31 and August 7.

Lions managing director Ben Calveley says kick-off times will prevent sports lovers from missing any of the action.

"Fans should not miss out on any action," said Calveley.

"We are determined to play our part in what will be an extraordinary summer of sport."

He added: "The priority right now has to be the safety and well-being of all those affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

"There should not be any direct clashes with Lions matches and Olympic events given the time difference between South Africa and Tokyo.

"We are expecting a fantastic series against the world champions."

New Zealand head coach Ian Foster has agreed to a "big" cut in his salary during the coronavirus pandemic.

Foster confirmed he and his fellow coaches have already reached an agreement with New Zealand Rugby, while discussions with players are also at an advanced stage.

"Our coaching group has definitely taken a big cut," Foster said to Newstalk ZB.

"That's already been agreed to - with rugby when there's no games, there's no revenue, and that's a tough thing. There's been a lot of shaving of the programmes inside and what it's also come down to is cutting.

"It's a different sort of process for players but I know they're willing to go into that space too.

"Theirs is a more complex [situation] - but it's a given and they understand that. It's just a matter of working it through so all the different levels of players are dealt with fairly.

"I haven't heard one player yet who doesn't accept that it's going to happen. There's a real willingness of those involved in the game to get behind this and do whatever it takes to make sure [the game] survives."

Foster believes the three home Test matches scheduled for July, two against Wales and another against Scotland, are unlikely to go ahead.

He wants the All Blacks players to maintain a base level of fitness, though conceded a "short period" would still be needed after the lockdown to up their levels to full match readiness.

"If you look at the probability, there's a reasonably good chance that international travel and borders won't be down across the world at that point, so in that case the All Blacks won't be playing in July,” he added.

"[If we keep players at peak fitness] they'll just blow out mentally and get really frustrated with that because there’s so much uncertainty.

"We want the players to settle down then we'll start expecting fitness levels to be at a certain point that when the lockdown finishes and we do start to think about a starting point for rugby again."

Dane Coles is prepared to take a pay cut and hopes other players will also undergo a financial hit during the coronavirus crisis to help ease the burden on New Zealand Rugby.

The Super Rugby season was suspended last week and plans for an alternative domestic competition have been put on hold amid the global pandemic.

New Zealand Rugby is set to be given financial assistance from the government during such unprecedented times.

All Blacks and Hurricanes hooker Coles says the players must also play a part.

"It's inevitable [that a pay cut will be required] and that's totally understandable considering what's going on in New Zealand," he told the New Zealand Herald.

"Rugby players in New Zealand might have to prepare for that but that's just my opinion. You don't want New Zealand Rugby to go under, it would be a bad thing.

"So hopefully the rugby players around New Zealand can do their part."

Coles backed the decision not to start up an alternative competition.

"We were always keen to do something but we were never going to risk the lives of people and we weren't going to do it without the government giving it the okay. That was the main priority we spoke about." he added.

"After what's come out, I don't think we'll be getting together again too soon. Which is fair enough. At the end of the day it's just rugby and there's more to life at the moment to worry about, so we'll just take it as it comes."

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, chances are you need to look back over the archives if you want to get your daily sporting fix.

Well, we've got you covered for Friday.

March 20 boasts a few notable events throughout sporting history, including a number of Grand Nationals, a heavyweight title fight and the retiring of one of basketball's most famous jerseys.

Here are five of the biggest things to happen in sport on this day...

 

1948 - 50/1 shot mare wins Grand National to end 

The 102nd edition of one of the world's most famous horse races saw Sheila's Cottage, ridden by Arthur Thompson, defy odds of 50/1 to win. She was also the first mare to triumph at Aintree in 46 years and only the 12th in the long and storied history of the steeplechase. Thompson and trainer Neville Trump would record a second win together four years later.

1988 - Mike Tyson knocks out Tyrell Biggs

In Atlantic City, Tyson took on 1984 Olympic gold medallist Tyrell Biggs, who was 15-0 since turning professional and was literally head and shoulders above his opponent, standing at 6 foot 5 compared to Tyson at 5 foot 10.

Still, he was no match for the defending WBA, WBC and IBF champion, who left Biggs bloodied and bruised before sending him crashing to the canvas in round seven. The fight continued but Biggs was knocked down again, leading the referee to halt proceedings and ensure Tyson stretched his record to 32 wins from 32.

1990 - Lakers retire Abdul-Jabbar's jersey

Thirty years ago, the LA Lakers retired the number 33 jersey of Karim Abdul-Jabbar, the man still considered by some to be basketball's greatest.

A six-time NBA champion with the Lakers and the Milwaukee Bucks, a winner of six MVP and two Finals MVP awards and 19 times on the All-Star roster, nobody has worn his number 33 for the Lakers since 1990.

2010 - France clinch grand slam

France won their 17th Five/Six Nations title and completed a ninth grand slam after battling to victory over England in Paris.

Les Bleus had powered through the earlier rounds but were made to work hard by England, who dominated the second half after ending the first 12-7 down but could only earn three more points via the boot of Jonny Wilkinson.

They have not won the championship since.

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."

Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) chairman Gareth Davies believes the right call was made after it was decided to postpone the Six Nations clash with Scotland.

With the British government opting not to ban large events, it seemed as though Wales' encounter with Scotland would go ahead as planned in Cardiff on Saturday.

However, the WRU confirmed on Friday, 24 hours prior to kick-off, that the match would not be played amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"It has been a tough week," said Davies in quotes reported by BBC Sport. "But we believe it was the proper and responsible thing to do."

"I don't think we could've dealt with it any better. We made a decision last night that this match would go ahead. In a very quickly moving world things had changed by late morning today.

"We initially followed the advice of government in terms of the scientific and medical evidence and that was the case up until [Thursday] night.

"We had an emergency board meeting to consider everything and we still thought, bearing in mind the advice we had, that keeping the game on was the way to go.

"Last night the Premier League were carrying on but by this morning that had changed and the EFL went on a similar course, as did the Celtic v Rangers game, in all being called off and other major global events were also being pulled.

"We spoke to the government this morning, who understood our position."

"For us to be the only sporting event to be on, we were mindful of the seriousness of the situation. We took into account supporters, players and staff and asked whether it was essential to subject to that risk."

Joe Marler has been handed a 10-week suspension for grabbing Alun Wyn Jones' genitals during England's Six Nations win over Wales.

England were 33-30 winners at Twickenham on Saturday, but there were a number of flashpoints throughout the match, with the hosts reduced to 13 men by the final whistle after Ellis Genge went to the sin bin and Manu Tuilagi was sent off.

One incident missed by the officials concerned Jones and prop forward Marler, who appeared to grab at the Wales captain's crotch, though there was no action from the officials. 

After the incident was cited for further review, Marler appeared before an independent disciplinary committee in Dublin on Thursday and subsequently received a ban until June 8.

Marler, who did not accept that the incident warranted a red card, has the right to appeal the decision.

Meanwhile, Tuilagi also appeared before the disciplinary committee. The centre likewise did not accept his tackle on George North warranted a red card, but his appeal was rejected and he is suspended for four weeks.

Courtney Lawes was also cited following the match for a dangerous tackle on Jones.

However, the committee agreed that Lawes' tackle, while an act of foul play, was not worthy of a red card.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac hailed captain Alun Wyn Jones as the "ultimate professional" ahead of his record-equalling cap in this weekend's clash with Scotland.

Jones has been named in Wales' team for Saturday's Six Nations game in Cardiff, which is set to go ahead as planned despite the competition's other two matches being postponed amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The 34-year-old will match New Zealand icon Richie McCaw's tally of 148 Tests when running out at the Principality Stadium, nine of those coming for the British and Irish Lions.

And Pivac has paid tribute to influential skipper Jones, who made his Wales debut against Argentina almost 14 years ago.

"You just need to speak to anybody he plays against and they'll tell you what it's like to play against him," Pivac said at a news conference on Thursday.

"They hold him in high regard. I've seen first-hand what Alun Wyn does, not only on the field but in terms of training and our environment, in terms of his leadership off the field. 

"What he does is just huge. At training, the whistle blows and we'll shift from one drill to another and he's up and sprinting, the first guy there every single time.

"Then you see in a game, when he gets up off the ground, he's gone. He's the ultimate professional. 

"Every country will have someone who they will say is the ultimate professional, and in Wales, he is that guy.

"Equalling the record will be a proud moment for him and, all being well, he'll break that record and that will be an even prouder moment."

Jones will be joined in the second row by Cory Hill for Wales' concluding Six Nations fixture, as Pivac makes four changes from the 33-30 defeat to England last weekend.

Uncapped Sale Sharks prop WillGriff John and fellow front-rower Wyn Jones are also included, while scrum-half Rhys Webb will make his first Wales start since November 2017.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has made three changes to his starting XV.

Stuart McInally and Magnus Bradbury have been brought into the side following last week's 28-17 win over France, while Sam Skinner will make his first start of the campaign.

"Wales are the Six Nations champions and came very close to making a World Cup final," Townsend told reporters.

"Are we underdogs? I would have thought so. We're ranked below them in the world rankings and have not won there for a long time.

"The players want to carry on the good work we've been doing and also go to a place where they have never won before and play our best game of the season."

 

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Nick Tompkins, Hadleigh Parkes, Liam Williams, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, WillGriff John, Cory Hill, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi.

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Rhys Carre, Leon Brown, Will Rowlands, Taulupe Faletau, Gareth Davies, Jarrod Evans, Johnny McNicholl.

Scotland: Stuart Hogg (captain), Sean Maitland, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Blair Kinghorn, Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally, Zander Fagerson; Sam Skinner, Grant Gilchrist; Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Magnus Bradbury.

Replacements: Fraser Brown, Allan Dell, Willem Nel, Scott Cummings, Matt Fagerson, George Horne, Duncan Weir, Kyle Steyn.

England pair Joe Marler and Courtney Lawes have been cited for incidents in England's 33-30 Six Nations win over Wales.

Prop Marler appeared to grasp the genitals of Alun Wyn Jones in the first half at Twickenham, leading the Wales captain to call on World Rugby to examine the footage.

The 29-year-old has been accused of an alleged infringement of law 9.27, which states that "a player must not do anything that is against the spirit of good sportsmanship – hair pulling or grabbing; Spitting at anyone; Grabbing, twisting or squeezing the genitals (and/or breasts in the case of female players)".

Lawes is also facing possible sanctions for a high tackle, also on Jones, in the second half.

The players face a disciplinary hearing on Thursday along with Manu Tuilagi, who was given a red card for a challenge on George North.

England's victory, coupled with France's defeat to Scotland, leaves Eddie Jones' side top of the standings with one match to play.

That game against Italy, scheduled for March 14 in Rome, has been postponed due to the spread of the coronavirus.

Chiefs centre Anton Lienert-Brown has committed his future to New Zealand by signing a new contract until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Lienert-Brown made his Super Rugby debut as an 18-year-old in 2014 and was handed his first All Blacks cap two years later, with his number of Test appearances now standing at 43.

The 24-year-old will remain available for his country for the next three years after putting pen to paper on a new deal.

"I love playing rugby in New Zealand. The team environments I have been a part of are really special," Lienert-Brown said in a statement.

"The challenge of the competition and team selection keeps me on my toes and drives me to be a better player and person.

"It's that challenge I enjoy the most and for me there is no better place I want to be, to develop on and off the field."

All Blacks coach Ian Foster said: "Anton has been a standout for the All Blacks in recent years and we congratulate him on his decision to re-sign with New Zealand Rugby.

"For someone relatively young, he's been an outstanding and consistent player who I feel is getting better and better. We look forward to seeing more of him this season and beyond."

Gregory Alldritt was left frustrated by France's defeat to Scotland but insists Les Bleus did not get ahead of themselves in pursuit of a Six Nations Grand Slam.

A first-half red card for Mohamed Haouas proved France's undoing as they surrendered their unbeaten record in this year's competition at Murrayfield.

The visitors went down 28-17, having led through Damian Penaud when Haouas was dismissed for punching Jamie Ritchie in the face.

Sean Maitland subsequently scored either side of half-time, before Stuart McInally and Charles Ollivon traded late tries.

While French number eight Alldritt was disappointed to see the winning start come to an end, he was adamant there had been no talk of an undefeated campaign within the squad.

"There is a lot of frustration," he told BBC Sport. "But before the game, we did not think about the Grand Slam.

"We knew we had a very tough game today, and it has been a very tough game.

"Everybody was talking about the Grand Slam except us. We knew we had nothing to lose today. We are building a team and we will see next weekend against Ireland."

Haouas' red card was the obvious turning point, yet Alldritt suggested France still could have been better with 14 men.

"We cannot control everything during the game, but even with 14 on the field, we had to carry on," he said. "We made too many mistakes today to win the game."

Ritchie was on the receiving end of Haouas' blow but was reluctant to criticise his opponent.

Asked what had happened between the players, he replied: "I don't know. It's international rugby, tempers get heated sometimes. It's a physical game and sometimes stuff happens."

Mohamed Haouas collected a costly red card as France's bid for a Six Nations Grand Slam triumph was comprehensively ended in a 28-17 defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield.

After successes against England, Italy and Wales, championship leaders Les Bleus saw their winning run halted after Haouas was dismissed for punching Jamie Ritchie in the face in the 37th minute on Sunday.

France - fast starters in their prior three matches - had recovered from a slow initial spell to score through the fit-again Damian Penaud, but Scotland dominated against 14 men.

Sean Maitland crossed either side of half-time, and Stuart McInally's fortuitous third try secured an ultimately straightforward home victory, despite Charles Ollivon's late reply.

France lacked rhythm for much of the first half and Francois Cros was sent to the sin bin after just five minutes when his tackle led to Grant Gilchrist's awkward landing, before Romain Ntamack was lost to a head injury.

Scotland led when Adam Hastings kept his nerve from the tee, and a sweetly struck second penalty from the same man secured a six-point advantage that lasted until the 33rd minute.

Les Bleus suddenly moved through the gears with the break approaching, as Antoine Dupont's gorgeous cross-field kick found Penaud on the right for the opening try.

However, the fracas involving Haouas and Ritchie took the match away from the visitors, the blow to the Scotland man's head the most serious incident in a clash involving multiple players from both sides.

Hastings' latest kick subsequently restored a Scottish lead, and he wasted little time in carrying his side forward once more, resulting in Maitland's rapid try on the stroke of half-time.

Improvement in the France ranks briefly threatened a resilient second period, only for a speedy break to free Maitland once again on the right wing.

Matthieu Jalibert dispatched a penalty just after the hour mark, but there would be no dramatic fightback as McInally profited on a lucky bounce from his own poor lineout to run clear.

Ollivon battled through to claim reward for a defiant display with four minutes remaining, at least providing encouragement heading into another key clash with Ireland.
 

Ntamack's sloppy start

The France fly-half had contributed 39 points - including two tries - across his first three matches of an outstanding campaign, but this was not his day. Ntamack lasted just eight minutes, in which time he sent a penalty swirling wide and then took a whack to the head, forcing his exit following a fumble that gave Scotland an early foothold.

Haouas hinders title hopes

France had only just belatedly turned up and claimed the lead through a fine try when Haouas undid their hard work. There was pushing and shoving on either side in front of the French posts, but the visiting number three could have no complaints as he was singled out after an awful swing at Ritchie.

Maitland's favoured foes

Scotland still had to put the 14 men to the sword, and Maitland's clinical finishing did the job. This was his third appearance against France at Murrayfield and he has scored on each occasion.

What's next?

France can still recover the Six Nations title. Level on points with England entering the final round, Les Bleus host Ireland next Saturday. Scotland finish their campaign with a trip to Wales earlier in the same day.

Alun Wyn Jones is hopeful World Rugby will investigate an incident in which England's Joe Marler appeared to grab the Wales captain's genitals during Saturday's Six Nations match.

England were 33-30 winners at Twickenham, but there were a number of flashpoints in a clash that ended with the hosts down to 13 men after Ellis Genge went to the sin bin and Manu Tuilagi was sent off.

One incident missed by the officials concerned Jones and Marler.

Television pictures caught Marler apparently grabbing Jones' crotch, prompting a bemused expression from the Wales veteran but no action.

"I've got 138 Tests for my country," Jones told a post-match news conference. "If I react, I get a red card. It's tough, isn't it?

"Hopefully World Rugby have a look at it. Joe's a good bloke, lots of things happen on a rugby field.

"It's difficult as a captain these days because you can't speak to a ref about anything, it feels. I look at the touch judge. Obviously he didn't see what happened, and that's fine.

"There's a lot of footage that has been shown. It seems like a lot of supporters saw what happened.

"It's very frustrating that we talk a lot about TMOs and footage reviews, yet there doesn't seem to be a lot of it happening."

World Rugby's laws state the punishment for "grabbing, twisting or squeezing the genitals" starts at 12 weeks.

Alun Wyn Jones revealed frustrations with Wales' first-half sloppiness after they succumbed to England on Saturday, suffering a third straight Six Nations defeat.

Grand Slam champions in 2019, Wales have endured a disappointing campaign this year despite crushing strugglers Italy in their opening match.

Defeats to Ireland, France and now England put paid to any hopes of defending their title, and captain Jones was particularly exasperated by his side's latest reverse.

Wales went down 33-30 at Twickenham, but only late tries against 13 men narrowed England's lead after Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly and Manu Tuilagi - later dismissed - crossed for the hosts.

Jones suggested Wales were always struggling to recover from an opening period in which Watson scored inside four minutes and Daly added to the home advantage.

He also highlighted the repeated penalties that allowed Owen Farrell and George Ford to keep the scoreboard ticking over for England.

"I was lamenting a couple of territory giveaways in the first half," the Wales captain told ITV Sport. "We gave them two possessions in the 22, went to two lineouts, and it was two tries.

"You're chasing the game a little bit. Then we got the three to stay on the scoreboard at the end of the half and then a great riposte at the start of the second half.

"Unfortunately, they obviously capitalised on a couple of our indisciplines in our 22 and kept the scoreboard at bay.

"It shows what we can do with those last two tries. If we keep the ball, we can score. It's just too little, too late, in the end."

However, England star Ben Youngs paid tribute to Wales as they refused to give up on a seemingly lost cause.

"Whenever we started to feel like we got ascendancy or control, Wales are so good at just staying in the fight, and they stayed in and battled hard," Youngs said.

"Our discipline probably just gave them easy leg-ups. They're clinical enough to punish you and it showed in the last 20 minutes, where we were basically camped in our own 22 and couldn't get out. It was tight in the end."

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