Preparations for the mid-August restart of the Gallagher Premiership suffered a blow on Wednesday when it was revealed ten of the 804 players and club staff recently tested for Covid-19 returned positive results for the virus. 

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The countdown to the targeted August 15 return-to-action in the Premiership stepped up a gear at the start of this week when clubs were allowed to progress to stage two of the return-to-play protocols. Stage two of the clubs’ return allowed for close contact training for small groups and would include scrummaging work. 

“This is a significant milestone in our journey to restarting Gallagher Premiership Rugby, as we stay on track to resume the league on August 15 if it remains safe to do so,” said Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs at the time. 

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“This stage brings with it a comprehensive Covid-19 testing programme for players and staff and a contact tracing protocol. As part of our commitment to player welfare, all players will be asked whether they would like to opt-in to stage two training, after completing an education module.

“Rugby has unique challenges due to levels of proximity and impact, which is why the exhaustive process that is being followed is so thorough and has involved high-level collaboration between Premiership Rugby, RFU and RPA.”

However, following stage two testing across the league last Monday, officials have now confirmed that all was not yet perfect in their hopes to resume the playing of matches in England next month. 

A statement released by the league’s governing body read: “Premiership Rugby can today confirm that on Monday, July 6, 804 players and club staff were tested as part of the PCR Covid-19 screening programme. Of these, ten people have tested positive. Of those ten, six were players and four non-playing staff.

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“Players or club staff who have tested positive and their close contacts will now isolate and be assessed in line with the PHE-agreed guidelines.

“Premiership Rugby and the RFU are providing this aggregated information for competition integrity and transparency. No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided. The number of positive results will be made public after each round of testing.”

Harlequins later confirmed that a member of their club was among the ten people who tested positive. A statement read: “The club must respect patient confidentiality and as such won’t be naming the individual involved. The individual is now in isolation along with any others identified as close contacts in both their team and household settings.

“When a player or staff member tests positive they are assessed on an individual basis under PHE guidelines, and a plan will be implemented which will include self-isolation as well as the isolation of team and household contacts. Further to this, a second test is now being taken by the individual to confirm the test, and the result will be known this week.

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“When a player who tests positive is ready to come back into the training environment, they will be medically assessed and have a graduated return to training.”

Worcester added that some of their group also tested positive. “Warriors can confirm that two members of staff have tested positive for COVID-19,” said a club website statement. “Both are asymptomatic but, as part of the procedures introduced by Premiership Rugby as part of stage two protocols, they will be re-tested. Both are currently self-isolating at home.”

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