June 24, 2020 / 10:02 AM / 18 days ago

Melbourne COVID-19 outbreak sees Rebels head for Canberra

File Photo: Melbourne Rebels v British & Irish Lions - British & Irish Lions Tour To Australia 2013 - AAMI Park, Melbourne, Australia - 25/6/13, British & Irish Lions Ian Evans and Melbourne Rebels Cadeyrn Neville jump in a line out. Action Images / Jason O'Brien

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Melbourne Rebels will depart for Canberra earlier than scheduled to prepare for their opening match of the “Super Rugby AU” competition due to an outbreak of COVID-19 in Melbourne, the team said on Wednesday.

Several clusters of COVID-19 infections have appeared across the Victoria state capital in recent days, raising fears of a second wave of infection in Australia.

With COVID-19 cases in Victoria “creating uncertainty”, the Rebels will head to Canberra on Friday, more than a week before meeting the ACT Brumbies, the Super Rugby team said in a statement.

“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 CEO Baden Stephenson said.

“At the same time, we will do all that we can to ensure the successful delivery of the Super Rugby AU competition.”

The Rebels players and staff were tested for COVID-19 on Monday and all returned negative results, the team said.

They will be tested again on Thursday before leaving.

The Rebels said a decision about where they would be based following the Brumbies match would be determined “in due course.”

The domestic competition, which starts on July 3 and features Australia’s four Super Rugby teams plus Perth-based Western Force, is the country’s first professional rugby union tournament since COVID-19 shut down the sport in March.

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Ken Ferris

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