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Rugby Sevens World Series
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World Rugby Sevens Series ends early due to coronavirus pandemic

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The World Rugby Sevens Series, the top tour for the discipline that debuted at the Olympics in 2016, canceled this season’s remaining stops in September and October, prematurely ending the 2019-20 campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic.

New Zealand led the women’s and men’s standings a little more than halfway through each season and have been awarded the titles. The U.S. women finished fifth and the men seventh, one year after each team registered program-best second-place finishes.

Full standings: Men | Women

“While it is very disappointing for players, fans, organizers and everyone involved to have to cancel these events due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the health and well-being of the rugby community and wider society remains the number one priority,” World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said in a press release. “These difficult decisions have been taken following detailed consultation with our union partners and in line with advice from the various government and public health agencies around the world, given the global nature of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.”

The last 2019-20 season stops were originally scheduled for April and May. Those events — Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, London and Paris — were postponed to September and October due to the virus before being canceled altogether in Tuesday’s announcement.

The season ended after five of eight women’s events and six of 10 men’s events.

The 2020-21 World Series schedule has not been announced. The last two women’s seasons began in October. The men’s season traditionally begins in late November/early December.

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Olympic rugby champion arrested for breaking coronavirus quarantine

Semi Kunatani
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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The Fiji Rugby Union has criticized two of its top professional players who have been arrested for failing to self-isolate amid the coronavirus pandemic after returning to Fiji from overseas.

Fiji media named one of the players as backrower Semi Kunatani who plays for the London-based Harlequins club. He was a member of the Fiji Olympic champion sevens team from the Rio Games. The other player has not yet been named.

Both players returned to Fiji via Singapore. They were arrested for failing to observe a 14-day quarantine designed the prevent the spread of Covid-19. Fiji has reported 12 cases.

“We strongly condemn the behavior of these two players and their disregard for lawful instructions to self-isolate themselves,” said John O’Connor, chief executive or Fiji rugby.

“Such irresponsible behavior is totally unacceptable and we support the actions of the police in arresting these two players and any further action taken against them. Fiji Rugby will take appropriate disciplinary actions against the professional rugby players, including reporting this highly irresponsible behavior to their clubs and World Rugby.”

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama highlighted the case of the players during his regular news briefing on Sunday.

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U.S. women’s rugby team earns first World Series title, Olympic spot

Alev Kelter, Lauren Doyle
USA Rugby
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The U.S. women’s rugby sevens team came into the World Series finale expecting to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. What few could have predicted, in addition, was a first World Series leg title.

The U.S. handed World Series champion New Zealand just its third loss of the season, 26-10 in the final in Biarritz, France, on Sunday. The Americans finished the season ranked second in the world, bettering their previous best of fourth in the inaugural campaign in 2012-13.

“I’ve imagined this moment so many times, and for it to finally come together about five years later, it means the world,” Rio Olympian Lauren Doyle said.

The top four became the first nations to qualify for Tokyo 2020. Four years ago, the U.S. women needed a second-chance, continental qualifier to make it into the field for rugby sevens’ Olympic debut in Rio. They lost to eventual silver medalist New Zealand in the Olympic quarterfinals.

The U.S. also showed in-season progress this winter and spring, particularly against New Zealand. The Kiwis won the first four meetings, but the U.S. took two of the last three.

New coach Chris Brown, a former U.S. men’s assistant, replaced Olympic coach Richie Walker, who resigned in August. Only three of this season’s 12 primary players were on the Rio Olympic team.

“We had to sort our culture out and make sure they wanted to play for each other, and know what it was like to put the team before themselves,” Brown said, according to World Rugby. “We’ve got a good group here, and from there we had to work out how to actually defend and show our character through our defense. That’s what we’ve done all season. We’re still missing a few cogs on the attacking side, but we’re progressing.”

The U.S. men previously qualified for Tokyo by finishing second in their World Series.

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