Sale have insisted their crucial Gallagher Premiership game at home to Worcester on Sunday will go ahead as planned – despite the Manchester club confirming that there has been a Covid-19 outbreak in their squad. 

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There were fears that the reported huge outbreak, speculated to involve up to 16 players and some staff, would result in Sale having to forfeit the match, an outcome that would likely see the Sharks fall out of the top-four and fail to qualify for next weekend’s semi-finals. 

However, they remain confident that the fixture will go ahead and that they can secure the bonus-point win that will guarantee their presence in the semi-finals.   

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The club statement, issued late on Friday night, read, “Sale Sharks can confirm that their Gallagher Premiership round 22 match with Worcester Warriors, scheduled for 3pm on Sunday, will go ahead as planned.

“Although Sale Sharks have been subject to a number of positive Covid-19 tests this week, after a thorough consultation, the club, its healthcare professionals and rugby management are confident the fixture can be fulfilled safely in accordance with all Covid-19 guidelines.

“As directed by Premiership Rugby earlier today, the Sharks matchday-23 to face Worcester Warriors will be announced at 12pm on Saturday. Sale Sharks will make no further comment at this time.”

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Four teams – Bath, Wasps, Sale and Bristol – are all battling to fill the three remaining qualification places behind the already-qualified Exeter and speculation that was something was amiss heading into Super Sunday ignited on Friday when all twelve team announcements for the weekend were unusually delayed until Saturday noon – teams are usually announced after 12 noon on Friday. 

A source, who knew of a number of players that had been told they can’t play on Sunday, told RugbyPass at the time: “There is an outbreak at a top-four club that will seriously impact on the last round of games.”

The outbreak at Sale was then officially confirmed on Friday night and the mood at the club was sure to have been in stark contrast to Steve Diamond’s upbeat patter during a Thursday lunchtime Zoom call ahead of their clash with Worcester. Asked during that session by RugbyPass to reflect on how the league had fared since the restart in managing the effects of the pandemic, Diamond said: “All credit has to go, certainly in our league, to Premier Rugby. 

“All the games have been completed apart from this last round… they have done a great job, the league, in getting it on. All the protocols we are going through and everything, it’s been a peculiar time. It will be remembered for all of us who have been through this as one of those years where for the next 20, 30 years we will be talking about, do you remember the Covid for all the wrong reasons?

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“Fortunately, I have not had anybody close to me who has been poorly with it but you can see what’s happening around the country and the rate of infections going up. We have to keep doing this [precautions] until it’s right to stop it.”

 

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