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Testing change ensures Bristol's New Year Day game goes ahead despite absence of all 6 front rowers from win at Quins

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Pat Lam has revealed a change in the training week at Bristol since the emergence of the new strain of Covid earlier this month has ensured Friday’s Gallagher Premiership game will go ahead despite one front player testing positive for the virus and the other front rowers from the win over Harlequins going into ten days’ isolation. 


Bristol beat Harlequins on Boxing Day and the consequences for the Londoners have resulted in their New Year’s Day Premiership game at Worcester being cancelled. One positive test in the Quins squad led to a contract tracing review, ruling a further six players out of selection and preventing them from fielding a full front row at Sixways. 

While Bristol have ruled out their starting front row from The StoopYann Thomas, Will Capon and John Afoa – along with replacements Jake Woolmore, Bryan Byrne and Max Lahiff for the visit of Newcastle, a change in what they do on testing day has saved the match from cancellation. 

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Wasps out-half Jacob Umaga guests on RugbyPass All Access
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Wasps out-half Jacob Umaga guests on RugbyPass All Access

Rather than train together on Mondays, as was previously the case, the players now drive in at individual times for testing and head away again straight away from the training ground and it’s only after the results come through by 4am on the Tuesday morning that collective training is allowed to proceed.     

It’s a rejigged process that was decided upon by Rory Murray, the Bristol head of medical, and it has worked in their favour to ensure Friday’s match at Ashton Gate will go ahead.    

“We probably didn’t need to isolate all the front rowers but in precaution we moved them all out and told them not to come in and we go from there. It’s a massive effort from everyone to have the sport running but we are also conscious that we all make the right decisions for safety. They are ruled out, they are in isolation for ten days,” explained Lam, whose half-time talk was pivotal in the comeback win over Harlequins.   


“We don’t come together on Monday at all because that is testing day. The boys come in at individual times, get their tests, drive up and go and then we wait for the results. Once that new variant came out and things looked like spiking we made a conscious decision that we won’t come together until we get the results. When you have no positive tests it is easier to slacken but we just said let’s make sure, we’ll take as much precaution and I’m thankful we did.  

“It has been six months of tests since July and no player had called a positive test. This is the first one we have had following our game against Quins. You put it in context of what is happening around the country at the moment, we are fortunate and we acted quickly so that everyone is safe.

“We get it [the results] Tuesday morning. We don’t come in (together) until the results are done. We normally start the day, everyone in together at around 8.30am. I’m normally up at around 4am and myself and Rory made the decision to get all those other front rowers isolated. All their results are negative so it is just precautionary.”



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