Rugby: Super Rugby's Rebels to leave Melbourne after Covid-19 outbreak

Rebels chief Baden Stephenson said all players and staff returned negative tests for Covid-19 on June 22. PHOTO: MELBOURNEREBELS/FACEBOOK

MELBOURNE (AFP) - The Rebels' preparations for their opening Australian domestic Super Rugby match have been disrupted by an outbreak of coronavirus in Melbourne, with the team moving to Canberra early for player safety.

Victoria state has seen a spike in Covid-19 cases over the past week with several new clusters emerging in its biggest city.

The Rebels are due to kick off their Super Rugby AU campaign on July 4 against the ACT Brumbies in Canberra, but have decided to travel to the nation's capital a week early.

"This is undoubtedly a very fluid situation and we are committed to keeping our people safe and healthy in accordance with government advice and regulations," Rebels chief Baden Stephenson said late Wednesday (June 24).

"We've been in constructive dialogue with Rugby Australia, (southern hemisphere governing body) Sanzaar and (players' union) RUPA for the last 24 hours and we have all agreed that decisive action is required."

A decision on where the team heads after the Brumbies clash has yet to be made. They are due to host the Queensland Reds in Melbourne on July 10.

Stephenson said all players and staff returned negative tests for Covid-19 on Monday and will be tested again on Thursday before leaving for Canberra on Friday.

The five-team Super Rugby AU begins on July 3 with the Reds up against the NSW Waratahs after the original 15-team season across five countries was halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Australia has recorded roughly 7,500 cases of coronavirus and 104 deaths in a population of 25 million, with several regions believed to be effectively virus free.

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