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Two days after T5 last addressed the subject, the pandemic continues to cut a swath through Japanese sport. Two of this weekend’s opening games of rugby’s Top League season have been canceled after three teams confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The highly anticipated Suntory-Toshiba match-up featuring two All Blacks, a Wallaby, a Springbok and a host of Japan internationals is one of the victims.

Nippon Professional Baseball and the J. League held their first joint COVID-19 task force meeting of 2021 on Tuesday and received advice from the body’s medical panel as the leagues prepare for their respective spring camps amid the Tokyo-area state of emergency, reports Kaz Nagatsuka. The gist of the advice: Go south, young men — if hosts in southern Japan will have you.

Coronavirus outbreak among top rugby players in Japan | NIPPON TV NEWS 24 JAPAN
Coronavirus outbreak among top rugby players in Japan | NIPPON TV NEWS 24 JAPAN

No sport is immune to the virus. Swimming star Rikako Ikee, who was out of competition for 19 months following her leukemia diagnosis in February 2019, pulled out of a meet last Sunday that had been earmarked as one of her comeback events, due to the surge in coronavirus cases in the capital.

In tennis, Yuichi Sugita, Japan’s third-ranked male player, tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month, forcing him to abandon his plan to compete in the Antalya Open in Turkey. Former world men’s No. 4 Kei Nishikori has also had a turbulent season, contracting the coronavirus in August and injuring his shoulder at the French Open soon after his return to action a month later.

Last month, Ryo Kiyuna, the favorite to win men’s kata gold when karate makes its Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games, also tested positive for the virus, just a week after he wrapped up a record ninth straight national championship in Tokyo and returned to his native Okinawa.

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