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Relief for England as RFU announces its latest testing results

By Sam Smith

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England have encountered no further coronavirus setbacks in the wake of Joe Marler’s positive test that has ruled him out of Saturday’s showdown with Australia. The Rugby Football Union has reported on Wednesday morning that all England playing and backroom staff who underwent an additional round of PCR testing in the wake of Marler’s confirmed case have produced negative results.

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Eddie Jones will breathe a sigh of relief at the news that means disruption for the Wallabies collision is limited to finding a replacement for Marler on the bench. The Harlequins prop played 14 minutes of the 69-3 victory over Tonga that launched the autumn.

Ellis Genge, one of the three newly appointed vice-captains, wore the No1 jersey last Saturday versus Tonga but Trevor Davison, the unused loosehead in the squad of 28 retained for the final training sessions in the lead-up to the England Autumn Nations Series opener, has just a single cap to his credit at Test level. 

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With Marler unavailable to participate in England training until November 18, two days before the series finale versus the Springboks, there was speculation that Jones could call on Mako Vunipola to fill the void. The 2019 World Cup final starter was one of Jones’ high profile omissions from recent England squads. However, Test rookie Bevan Rodd was also a contender having been in the England training squad in late September and he has now been called into the squad.

Regarding England testing, an RFU spokesperson had outlined on Tuesday: “The squad all did scheduled lateral flow testing yesterday evening [Monday]. Joe returned a positive and immediately went into isolation. 

“Supporting testing, additional lateral flow and PCR, has confirmed it is a positive. We are very comfortable that he is Covid positive and we will not ask for a retest because unlike the last situation (with Owen Farrell), the supporting testing confirms it. They have all undergone additional lateral flow testing and all have returned negative results. 

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“We have done another round of PCR and are just awaiting results on that. If we have any negative or bad news on that we will update you but fingers crossed we do not. Everyone has trained this morning [Tuesday]. They have gone out (and trained) as a squad.” 

While the outcome of the PCR testing will be welcomed, England are still facing a second weekend of disruption because of Covid. Captain Owen Farrell missed the Tonga clash after returning a positive test only for reanalysis of the sample to reveal it was a false-positive. In an attempt to limit any further setbacks, all 34 players in Jones’ autumn squad – including those not selected against Australia – are remaining in camp for the whole week.

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