Gloucester and Northampton’s scheduled Gallagher Premiership match has been cancelled after an outbreak of COVID-19 in Sale Sharks’ squad lead to Saints players self-isolating.

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16 Sale Sharks players have tested positive for the virus, which has thrown the final weekend of the regular Premiership season into chaos.

As Sale Sharks played Northampton last Tuesday, the question became whether or not Saints players have been exposed to the virus. Track and trace protocols would dictate that Saints players need testing as a result.

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Saints say that as a result of the virus tracking, they would not be able to field a sufficient amount of props due to players self-isolating.

“Premiership Rugby can confirm that tomorrow’s Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Gloucester Rugby and Northampton Saints has been cancelled,” a statement reads. “Northampton Saints informed Premiership Rugby on Friday that they had insufficient front row players to start the match. The situation was created as a result of a large number of positive COVID-19 tests at Sale Sharks, following the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between the two sides last Tuesday evening.

“Following the completion of the Track and Trace Audit, a number of the Northampton Saints playing squad are now self-isolating, in accordance with Public Health England guidance.”

Premiership Regulations states that “In the interests of safety each team playing in the Premiership must have at least six (6) fit and able Players in the squad who can play at hooker, tight head prop and loosehead prop who are suitably trained and experienced to ensure that on the first occasion that a replacement in any front row position is required (whether due to injury or consequent to a Player(s) being temporarily suspended or ordered off) the team can continue to play safely with contested scrums.”

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Darren Childs, Chief Executive at Premiership Rugby said: “When we embarked on Rugby Restart back in August we said from the outset that the health and safety of everyone involved with Premiership Rugby was our priority.

“We completed eight of the nine rounds of Gallagher Premiership Rugby without losing a match so it is with great regret that we make this announcement today.

“We understand and fully sympathise with Northampton Saints’ position. They are in this position due to no fault of their own, but unfortunately they cannot fulfil the fixture.”

In accordance with Premiership Rugby regulations the match has been awarded as a 20-0 victory to Gloucester Rugby, with Gloucester Rugby been awarded five league points and Northampton Saints zero.”

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Northampton Saints Gloucester

Premiership Rugby have awarded the match to Gloucester /PA

Saints have also released a statement:

“It is with deep frustration that Northampton Saints can confirm that the Club’s scheduled Gallagher Premiership Round 22 fixture against Gloucester Rugby on Sunday 4 October at Kingsholm will not take place,” said Mark Darbon, Northampton Saints Chief Executive.

“As a result of a large number of positive COVID-19 tests at Sale Sharks, a number of our playing squad are required to self-isolate following close contact during our game against Sale on Tuesday evening.

“Specifically, this has acutely impacted our front row – an area where we were already significantly depleted owing to a series of injuries. Of the 14 front row players in our squad, we are left with just one tighthead prop and one hooker available to be included in the matchday squad.

“As soon as we were aware of the situation, we asked for permission to register loan players beyond the normal deadline in order that we could attempt to complete the fixture. We were advised that this dispensation will not be granted. We therefore have no option to bring in additional players as cover.

“We are extremely disappointed that our season has ended this way; an outbreak of coronavirus at another Premiership Club has left us with no viable option other than to forfeit our game.

“So far, none of our players are symptomatic and, where required, continue to follow all guidance to isolate.”

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