The surging coronavirus outbreak has forced Hong Kong Rugby Union to cancel the rest of the season for clubs in the men’s and women’s premierships. With thousands of new Covid-19 cases being reported in the city every day, the union cited the escalation of transmission, the uncertainty of when the fifth wave might end, and concerns over player welfare, as reasons behind the move. The scrapping of the Dettol Premiership seasons means there will be no grand championships in either the men’s or women’s competition, and the men’s Premiership A has also been cancelled. But the union hopes to be able to play some games at community and youth level, should social-distancing restrictions be relaxed in the coming weeks. “Unfortunately it will not be possible to complete a safe and adequate return to play protocol in time to play competitive rugby by the previously agreed April 2 deadline for the conclusion of both the men’s and women’s Premierships,” James Farndon, the union’s general manager of performance rugby, said. “Whilst this is not the news anyone wanted, the welfare of players remains our first and foremost concern.” Also playing into the union’s planning is the need to prepare a men’s squad for the Asia Rugby Championship, which is expected to take place from May 27 to June 4. Omicron restrictions force Hong Kong’s women to end Rugby World Cup dream While a venue has yet to be determined, there are suggestions that either Malaysia or South Korea, the other two teams in the tournament, could host the matches. “While we are not able to finish the Premiership Grand Championships, we still hope to see some community rugby before the end of the season, and we look forward to welcoming over 11,000 players back to the pitches for the union’s 70th anniversary season next autumn,” Robbie McRobbie, the union’s CEO, said. “In the interim, we are ready to support the Hong Kong Men’s XV in their bid for a third straight Asia Rugby title this spring, and our Sevens squads’ appearances at the Asian Games and Rugby World Cup Sevens in September.” Both league titles were decided before Christmas, with Societe Generale Valley Ladies crowned champions in a season cut short to allow the women’s national team to prepare for a potential World Cup qualifier in Dubai this month, although the government’s suspension of all sport on January 7, and the city’s very strict travel restrictions, put paid to that. With an unassailable position in the Dettol Men’s Premiership, Hong Kong Football Club were declared winners in December, whilst Club Dragons take the Premiership A league silverware.