Wasps boss Blackett left fuming over EPCR handling of imperiled Dragons match
Wasps head coach Lee Blackett revealed his side were not made aware that their Heineken Champions Cup opponents Dragons had returned two positive Covid-19 tests until a few hours before kick-off.
The two teams met on Saturday afternoon in the opening round of the European competition, with Wasps running out 24-8 winners after tries from hooker Tom Cruse, scrum-half Dan Robson and flankers Jack Willis and Thomas Young, plus two conversions from centre Jimmy Gopperth.
Dragons scored a well-worked try from wing Jonah Holmes and a penalty by fly-half Sam Davies in reply, but it was the issue of whether the game should have gone ahead at all which raised the most questions afterwards.
European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) issued a statement during the afternoon to say that after talks with medical experts, and once all contact tracing evidence had been examined, the match could go ahead if Dragons replaced six players in their squad “as a precautionary measure”.
And although Blackett did not want the incident to overshadow a good performance from his side, he questioned why they had not been told of events sooner.
“What has gone on today with Covid tests, you have got to give a lot of credit to our players,” he said.
“We found out about this at two o’clock today. And it amazes me when they found out at 10 o’clock last night that nobody from European Rugby thought to tell us until two o’clock.
“But for our guys to mentally get their heads back on and to come away with a result, I am really pleased.
“We are all human and when we get the news at two o’clock, we have travelled down with a normal squad and a couple of travelling reserves. We speak to the players about it and they were happy to go.
“It was a distraction but the players were so professional in the way they handled themselves, and I would like to think that going onto the field we were not thinking about that.”
As for the game itself, Blackett said: “You have not got to underestimate how difficult an away win is in Europe, especially getting the bonus point.
“We are really happy with the result which is what it is in knockout rugby. There were some positive sides to our performance.”
Dragons director of rugby Dean Ryan admitted his team had no option but to get on with the match as best they could, saying: “Changing eight players on a Friday night and Saturday morning is obviously a disruption, but it is part of the landscape.
“This week, we were 100 per cent clear on Tuesday in testing with a review of WRU which received an excellent, but it is part of life in this part of the world.”
Ryan is now hoping his Dragons side can somehow regroup before facing Bordeaux Begles next weekend.
“It is going to be an interesting week coming up because we are faced with the same challenges of isolation,” he said.
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