Argentina loose forward Javier Ortega Desio has been excluded from the national side’s Rugby Championship training squad after testing positive for COVID-19.

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The Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) confirmed the news on Sunday, two weeks after the 57-test international was named in a 46-man Los Pumas squad to prepare for the Rugby Championship set to be staged in New Zealand later this year.

The UAR, however, confirmed that Desio never linked up with the locally-based training group, which assembled in Buenos Aires on August 13.

“The player never trained at Casa Pumas because he was fulfilling mandatory isolation,” the national governing body said, as per Reuters.

“In the days prior to the start of training he had presented symptoms such as fever and general malaise, which later confirmed the presence of the coronavirus.”

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The absence of the 30-year-old Jaguares star will be a blow to head coach Mario Ledesma’s preparations for the SANZAAR tournament, which is expected to be hosted solely in New Zealand between November and December.

Coronavirus-enforced travel restrictions have prevented the the annual competition from being held on a home-and-away basis across New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina, as is normally the case.

New Zealand’s effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic has placed it as the leading candidate of the four nations to hold the tournament, but a recent outbreak in Auckland has jeopardised those plans.

Similarly, the highly-anticipated North vs South clash has also come under scrutiny after the New Zealand Government announced an extension to Auckland’s lockdown until the end of this week.

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Argentina, meanwhile, has recorded a total of 342,000 COVID-19 cases, with the government enforcing strict social distancing measures.

Los Pumas will resume training in the nation’s capital on Monday, but will be forced to undergo tests for the virus at the beginning of the week.

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