The Autumn Nations Cup organisers are working with the Fiji squad and the French Rugby authorities to identify how many players have tested positive for COVID-19, which has serious implications for the start of the eight team tournament.
It is understood that between five and seven Fiji players tested positive at their training base in Limoges where they will be for the next two weeks. Fiji were scheduled to play Portugal in a warm-up game on November 6 but this has been shelved.
Fiji’s first match in the Autumn Nations Cup is against France on 15 November followed by Italy on 21 November before travelling to Murrayfield to play Scotland in the final round on the 28 November.
With Fiji, under new coach Vern Cotter, based in France, the FFR are heavily involved in trying to ascertain the number of players involved and further tests are due next week to help clarify the situation. In a statement the Autumn Nations Cup organisers said: “The Autumn Nations Cup testing oversight group has been notified of positive cases in the Fijian squad that have been placed in isolation as per required protocols.
“We are working closely with the Fijian rugby union and the FFR, given that Fiji’s base camp is in France, on appropriate measures and await further test results next week.”
John O’Connor, the Fiji RFU chief executive, is expected to issue a statement shortly about the reports of positive tests amongst the squad.
Cotter, assistant coach Glen Jackson and seven players in his Flying Fijians squad were involved in the Barbarians match preparations to face England which saw the game cancelled a week ago after 13 players left the team “bubble”. Those players are now awaiting a Rugby Football Union hearing with possible bans and fines likely, but the seven Fiji players did not leave the hotel and followed protocols. However, it has not been revealed if any of the seven have now been involved in the positive tests.
The majority of the Fiji squad are based in France where strict lockdown measures have been imposed to try and stem the increase in those being affected by the pandemic and organisers will want to know early next week if there is a significant problem with the Pacific Island nations squad which has already seen key players such as Semi Radradra and Pecili Yato ruled out by injury.
Cotter took over as head coach of Fiji in January but due to the pandemic only had charge of his first full training run with his players on Friday at the Beaublanc Stadium in Limoges. The squad includes Leicester wing Nemani Nadolo who has come out of retirement and fellow backs Ben Volavola and Levani Botia.
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