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Munster issue update: Province working 'tirelessly' to get players home

By Ian Cameron
(Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Munster are working hard to return their squad to Irish shores after getting effectively stranded in South Africa due to concern around a new Covid-19 variant.

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South African sport is facing a shutdown due to the detection of a new coronavirus variant, with rugby teams scrambling to leave before travel restrictions are imposed and the first event of golf’s new-look DP World Tour under threat.

Four rugby teams were due to play South African opposition in the United Rugby Championship but all are now looking to fly to home at first possible opportunity.

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Munster have issued an update on their progress, which seems to be slow given the fact that so many people have tried to leave the Rainbow Nation in the last 48 hours.

A statement reads: “Munster Rugby continue to work tirelessly on travel plans for getting the touring party back to Ireland as soon as possible.

“Based in Loftus Park the touring group of 34 players and 14 staff are remaining within the hotel environment waiting on further developments.

“The training week was well spent at the nearby Affies high school with the squad having the gym, pitch, and meeting room facilities to themselves.

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“While it was an enjoyable and productive week in the build-up to what would have been today’s game against the Vodacom Bulls the focus has now switched to ensuring the squad’s return to Ireland.

“A special note of thanks to Protea Hotel Operations Manager Greg Sparke and his staff for the fantastic care and service provided during the week. The squad are also grateful for the services of Team Liaison Warren Morris who has been working with the squad for the tour,” the statement says.

Commenting on the situation, Head of Medical Dr Jamie Kearns noted, “We were really looking forward to this URC encounter especially given Johann’s relationship with the club. Overall, the week has gone smoothly with everyone in high spirits.

“We are disappointed not to be playing today, but we are all too aware of the ever-changing world of Covid-19 and the danger it represents, and our priority is the health and wellbeing of the group.

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“After receiving negative PCR test results, we continue to follow Covid protocols, restrict our movements and remain within our bubble as the work continues in the background on getting the touring party back to Ireland.”

Despite Ireland having far higher per capita case numbers than South Africa, fears around the potency of the new Omicron variant and the potential quarantining circus awaiting teams returning have meant all the URC have deemed it necessary to postpone Round 6 and 7 in South Africa.

A URC statement on Friday read: “This weekend’s round six matches in South Africa have been postponed due to the emergence of a new variant of Covid-19 (B.1.1.529). Next week’s round seven matches have also been postponed due to the sudden developments that had placed South Africa on the UK and EU travel red list. The matches will be rescheduled for later this season.

additional reporting AAP

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