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Covid outbreak at top-four club to impact on Premiership's Super Sunday finale

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Speculation is growing that one of the Gallagher Premiership top-four clubs has suffered a major outbreak of Covid-19 that will impact hugely on the final round of regulation-season fixtures on Sunday. 

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Four teams – Bath, Wasps, Sale and Bristol – are battling to fill the three remaining qualification places behind the already-qualified Exeter. 

However, all twelve team announcements for the weekend were unusually delayed until Saturday noon – teams are usually announced after 12 noon on Friday.  

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A source, who knows of a number of players who have been told they can’t play on Sunday, told RugbyPass: “There is an outbreak at a top-four club that will seriously impact on the last round of games.”

Four English clubs were last weekend involved in European action. Exeter hosted Toulouse and Saracens visited Racing in the Champions Cup, while Bristol welcomed Bordeaux and Leicester went to Toulon in the Challenge Cup semi-finals.

All those teams featured in midweek Premiership action, but it has since emerged in France that there was a Covid outbreak at Racing with their entire playing squad and staff placed in isolation after nine people tested positive for the virus.  

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A Premiership Rugby statement on Friday regarding the team announcement delay read: “Following the recent set of midweek matches, we have decided to postpone all team announcements for Gallagher Premiership Rugby round 22 until noon on Saturday.”

Saracens vs Bath, Wasps vs Exeter, Sale vs Worcester and London Irish vs Bristol are the matches that will have a final say in the top-four race in England. A huge number of cases at a club could lead to a match being forfeited, which would be a disaster given the effort that went into getting the Premiership restarted.

While three Top 14 matches have been called off in France in recent weeks, including two this coming weekend, officials in England have managed to successfully hold eight rounds of fixtures since the 2019/20 season started, something that Sale boss Steve Diamond commended the league for.

Asked on Thursday by RugbyPass to reflect on how the league had fared since the restart in managing the effects of the pandemic, Diamond said: “All credit has to go, certainly in our league, to Premier Rugby. All the games have been completed apart from this last round… they have done a great job, the league, in getting it on. All the protocols we are going through and everything, it’s been a peculiar time.

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“It will be remembered for all of us who have been through this as one of those years where for the next 20, 30 years we will be talking about, do you remember the Covid for all the wrong reasons? Fortunately, I have not had anybody close to me who has been poorly with it but you can see what’s happening around the country and the rate of infections going up. We have to keep doing this [precautions] until it’s right to stop it.”

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