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Blues hit by Covid outbreak just hours out from Highlanders clash

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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The Blues are the latest Super Rugby Pacific side to be rocked by Covid-19.

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Just hours out from their round four clash against the Highlanders at North Harbour Stadium in Albany, reports emerged on Friday detailing that the Auckland-based franchise have multiple positive Covid cases within their camp.

As things stand, Friday’s match will still go ahead as planned, although the Blues will be forced to make some changes to their starting lineup, with Stuff reporting that star first-five Beauden Barrett will miss the match.

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Barrett had been named to make his first start for the Blues since 2020 after missing last year’s campaign to play for Suntory Sungoliath on a season-long sabbatical in Japan.

In a statement released to media, the Blues didn’t stipulate which specific players had been infected, or how many players have tested positive, but confirmed that alterations will be made to the starting team that was announced earlier this week.

“A small number of players in the squad have tested positive for Covid. They are self-isolating and the remainder of the squad will continue with the strict protocols including regular testing,” a Blues spokesperson said.

“While we have been extremely vigilant, as the other Super clubs have found, the Omicron variant can infiltrate the team. It will require some changes to the playing squad for Friday night’s game against the Highlanders at North Harbour Stadium.”

News of the Blues outbreak comes at the end of a week where the Highlanders, Hurricanes and Chiefs were also impacted by Covid, with the former side subsequently forced to postpone their home match against Moana Pasifika.

The match is Moana Pasifika’s third postponed fixture after Covid ravaged their squad at the beginning of the campaign, pushing back their season-openers against the Blues and Chiefs.

It was announced on Friday that those fixtures have been re-scheduled as mid-week matches to be played in round seven and round nine.

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The Highlanders, meanwhile, after having confirmed positive cases within their environment, also had complaints laid against them for frugal mask usage on their flight between Wellington and Dunedin last week.

The Crusaders, by contrast, are yet to have their season disrupted by the virus.

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