Premiership Rugby have called off Sunday’s Premiership Rugby Cup final just six hours after claiming their showpiece decider between Sale and Harlequins would go ahead as planned. 

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Sports fixtures around the world have been called off due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. However, despite the postponement of four Guinness Six Nations matches and the indefinite suspension of the Guinness PRO14 and the French Top 14, English rugby authorities initially insisted on Friday that it was business on usual.

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They were forced into a U-turn later in the day, though, after it emerged that an unspecified staff member presented coronavirus symptoms. 

It a statement, Premiership Rugby said: “Unfortunately, Sunday’s Premiership Rugby Cup final has been postponed following an individual on staff developing symptoms consistent with coronavirus (Covid-19). The individual is now safely in isolation.

“We’re incredibly sorry to all the people who will be disappointed. However, the welfare of fans, players and staff remains our first concern, and so we must postpone the game for now.”

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Harlequins confirmed the problem stemmed from their end. “Following on from the postponement of the Premiership Rugby Cup final, Harlequins can confirm that a member of the cxlub’s support staff has shown flu-like symptoms,” read a club statement.

“As a precaution, they have placed themselves in self-isolation following government-advised best practice and for the welfare of others.”

Premiership Rugby’s statement earlier on Friday had explained that the match in Manchester was going ahead as would Gallagher Premiership matches in the coming weeks. 

That statement read: “The welfare of our fans, players and staff is our first concern and we are working in close contact with DCMS, Public Health England and World Health Organisation, following all the experts’ advice. 

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“Based on this advice, and in consultation with the teams, we have decided to run the Premiership Rugby Cup this Sunday at the AJ Bell Stadium, as planned.

“We will continue to work closely with government on a schedule for the remainder of the season, should the guidance on sporting events change. We will keep updating our plans with new information as it is released, and ensure our clubs and fans are updated with developments as soon as they happen.”

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