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The URC issue statement after chaotic week of variant induced drama

By Ian Cameron
United Rugby Championship

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The United Rugby Championship (URC) have released a statement in the wake of what has been chaotic a week for the tournament and a number of its teams.

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Travel regulations rushed in across Europe in the wake of fears around the new Covid-19 variant Omnicron saw four URC sides stranded in South Africa, where they were touring. Their matches would have been the first URC games on South African soil, but the pandemic has disrupted the new competition’s plans yet again.

The majority of players and staff from all four teams have since returned to complete their periods of isolation. However a number of players from Munster and Cardiff who tested positive remain in South Africa where they need to see out an isolation period before travelling.

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It’s been a tough week for the fledgling competition, who were criticised in some quarters, with Cardiff’s Mathew Morgan describing the organisation as ‘a shambles’.

Now the Dublin-based comp have explained their thinking as they were forced into making hard decisions in the face of a constantly changing set of circumstances that few would have foreseen.

The URC statement reads: “Since information was released regarding the new Covid-19 variant, the United Rugby Championship has sought to act swiftly in the best interests of player welfare which led to the immediate postponements of the Round 6 & 7 cross-hemisphere fixtures last week.

“The league can now confirm that travelling parties from Cardiff, Munster, Scarlets and Zebre Parma are now all back in Europe. Only a group from Cardiff and Munster, who had positive PCR test results, remain in South Africa and are under the continued great care of our colleagues from SA Rugby.

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“In the past week the URC has worked with the relevant government departments of the travelling teams to repatriate players and staff. The focus now continues to be placed on supporting the players and staff in various locations who are quarantining.

“In this very challenging situation the league would like to acknowledge the heartfelt support from the many government departments, fellow URC teams and the wider rugby community, including SA Rugby, the South African players association (MyPlayers), the league’s shareholders and clubs, commercial partners and other people who reached out to offer assistance.

“After a successful beginning to the inaugural URC campaign, the league remains committed to the format and ensuring all games are played. Work has already begun on rescheduling the games postponed in R6 and R7 but it must be made clear that the welfare of our teams and players must come first.”

Earlier in the week the European Professional Club Rugby has relaxed player registration rules in response to the plight of four sides who found themselves stranded in South Africa, but stressed that there are no spare weekends to accommodate postponements.

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