Japan's Top League has been cancelled today with 42 matches of the current season left to play in an attempt help stem the spread of the coronavirus.
The Top League is the highest level of rugby competition in Japan and the organisers confirmed the news in a statement on the official website this morning.
"Given the current status of Novel Coronavirus (COVID019) and expanding infections, the Japan Rugby Top League (JRTL) has decided to cancel all matches of Round 11 and after in the 2020 season as well as this year’s tournament itself," the statement reads.
As it happens, the Top League was in the middle of a three round suspension "to conduct thorough compliance education" after a Hino Red Dolphins player was arrested on suspicion of illicit drug use.
The JRTL goes on to cite the health and safety of spectators, players and staff for the cancellation of the season while highlighting the fact that many of the Top League's foreign imports have been advised to return home.
One of those is former Australia international Matt Giteau (main pic), also ex-Toulon, who is currently plying his trade with Suntory Sungoliath.
"There are more important things than rugby right now," Giteau said in a post on Twitter.
"I love living and playing here in Japan but not to the extent of being locked out of Australia away from my family until June."
The Top League also adds that the current season has been voided and that they are making alternative plans to the annual Rugby Championship which is a four-team play-off to decide the winner.
"Since the Japan Rugby Top League 2020 has been cancelled in the middle of its season and will not be completed, there will be no final standing," reads the statement.
"Thus, the four participating teams to the 57th Japan Rugby Championship, which currently is scheduled to be held from Saturday May 23rd, will be determined in an alternative way.
"Further information will be announced as soon as it is confirmed."
The news comes at a time when pressure is mounting on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the 2020 Olympic Games which are due to be held in the capital city in four months time.
Canada became the first nation to officially withdraw its athletes from the 2020 Olympic games, sparking further doubt over whether the Tokyo games will go ahead as planned.
Last night the IOC gave itself a four week deadline to make a decision on what to do but a report suggests that the event will not go ahead this summer.