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'All positive, we're going. That is what I have been informed'

By Liam Heagney

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Sale boss Alex Sanderson has revealed that the stipulated 48-hour French quarantine and PCR testing rule which has thrown some of this weekend’s European games into doubt has been lifted, clearing the way for the Sharks to take on Clermont at Stade Marcel Michelin this Sunday in the Heineken Champions Cup.

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Matches featuring Premiership teams in action in France have had a question mark hanging over them with Bath, who are due to play at La Rochelle on Saturday, issuing an ultimatum to tournament organisers EPCR on Wednesday that they won’t fulfil their fixture if the current French quarantine and testing rules were still in place. 

English teams have feared their players testing positive while in France and being forced into an unplanned ten-day stay there, anxiety that ignited doubts that Anglo-French fixtures taking place in France over the next two weekends would go ahead as scheduled. 

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However, while Bath director Stuart Hooper and Exeter boss Rob Baxter outlined their concerns about a lack of clarity over Europe at their respective media briefings on Wednesday, Sale boss Sanderson alternatively claimed that his club was informed early that morning that the regulations would be changed and that the Sharks were cleared to travel for their round three match.  

“All positive, we’re going,” enthused Sanderson about the January 16 away Champions Cup game for Sale. “That is what I have been informed. We are in constant communication but the message this morning was we are going and from my understanding, we don’t have to stay the 48 hours or PCR test which was the worry because people would probably get trapped over in France. 

“The final hoop to jump through is the Schengen visas (for Sale’s South African contingent), which we are still waiting on but we are very confident they will come through and the game will go ahead… Usually, they take a few weeks to go through the consulate which is in London so you have to book that day off and travel to London and meet people and they have to meet South Africans who need them [the visas]. 

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“Through this process, it has been pushed through in record time thanks to the EPCR and the French consulate we got to meet someone in Manchester on Monday who approved all the identification and sent it down to London to get reapproved and we presume it goes on from there to somebody else higher up the echelons of red tape. That is where we are at with that, we are still waiting for them back but we are confident we will get them back.”

Asked to clarify how and when Sale exactly learned that the 48-hour French Governenmnt quarantine rule and the PCR testing requirement would no longer apply, Sanderson explained: “First thing this morning an email was sent through to our doctor via our manager and I have seen him again, I cornered the manager in the toilet and he said it [the change] is happening. 

“I haven’t spoken to the EPCR directly so I might be talking about this not falsely but on the back of all the communication thus far that we have and we are very positive about hiring a chartered aeroplane and a hotel that it [the match] is going to happen. They might just need a quick seal of whatever to make it official but from all the communication we have had it is happening. We are flying Saturday, coming back Sunday.”

Elsewhere, Sale referenced there were aware of the story about an unnamed England rugby player being arrested last weekend and the speculation that it had since sparked. However, given that police had made an arrest and it was now a legal matter, media were told at the start of the Sanderson press briefing that they would not be taking any questions on the matter. 

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