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England suffer eve-of-Test blow as Cockerill can't attend the game

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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The England preparations for this Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations game against Ireland at Twickenham have suffered another covid blow as assistant coach Richard Cockerill has tested positive and will now be absent from the match due to the need to go into isolation.

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It was last Friday when back-rower Alex Dombrandt tested positive and it was only at Thursday morning’s training that he could rejoin the squad on the pitch, a situation that fed into him only making the bench this weekend as Sam Simmonds has instead been chosen to start at No8.

Now, assistant coach Cockerill has been ruled out of involvement in the must-win round four match, the RFU issuing a Friday morning update about the current virus situation in the England camp.

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Back in the Game – RFU
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Back in the Game – RFU

It read: “England coach Richard Cockerill has tested positive for covid. He returned a positive lateral flow test early on Friday morning and immediately went into isolation. A positive PCR result confirmed the result later that morning.

“All of the other England players and staff members have undergone daily lateral flow testing this morning before training, all of which have returned negative results. Cockerill will not be at England’s Guinness Six Nations game against Ireland at Twickenham Stadium tomorrow [Saturday].”

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Eve-of-Test virus setbacks have become a regular occurrence this season with England. It was during the Autumn Nations Series that Owen Farrell and Ellis Genge were ruled out on respective November Fridays from matches in that particular series, while prop Joe Marler has had his England involvement twice curtailed by positive tests results.

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It was last Sunday night when the RFU confirmed the situation surrounding Dombrandt, a starter in the February wins over Italy and Wales. “Alex Dombrandt tested positive for covid on Friday, March 4,” read a statement at the time. “After recording a positive LFT in the morning, he immediately went into isolation and did not take part in training. A PCR test confirmed the positive result later that evening. He is expected to rejoin the squad later next week.”

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