Worcester cancellation row: 'Hybrid game' solution was turned down
Worcester boss Steve Diamond has defended his club over last Friday’s late cancellation of their Gallagher Premiership game at playoff-chasing Gloucester. There were just five hours left until the 7:45pm kick-off when it was confirmed by Premiership Rugby that the match at Kingsholm was off and wouldn’t be rescheduled due to the stringent regulations governing front row players.
Injuries, illness and covid resulted in overstretching the Worcester resources in the buildup and it led to an eleventh-hour cancellation that caused much upset at Gloucester as they were left to shoulder the financial losses involved in not being able to cater for a five-figure attendance at a fixture that was set to be shown live in BT Sport.
Diamond has since recruited four players on loan from Hartpury College in the Championship, meaning Worcester can get the show back on the road on Wednesday night when they are due to play at Bath in the Premiership Rugby Cup.
A statement from Premiership Rugby on Tuesday also confirmed that it had asked Sport Resolutions UK to form an independent panel to adjudicate on the cancelled fixture but in the meantime, Diamond used his weekly media briefing to insist that Worcester did everything it could to play the match at Gloucester.
Diamond explained that calls to all the other Premiership clubs failed to secure players on loan in an emergency capacity while offers to play the match at a later date or to play the game as scheduled but with uncontested scrums were turned down as they weren’t allowed for in the league’s regulations.
The Worcester boss explained: “We will be able to fulfil the fixture tomorrow night [Wednesday] at Bath. We have brought four lads in from Hartpury for our Prem Cup game, and the rest of the crew will be coming back to work tomorrow and the day after, I think. It’s six days since it hit us, seven days, last Wednesday, Thursday, and I have not had anybody in work. We have had it deep cleaned, we have had the gym deep cleaned, the physio room, the changing rooms, so hopefully we can eradicate it.
“Under the player welfare issues, we informed Gloucester at 2.30pm on Thursday that we were having problems. We then tried to source further recruits from the Premiership. We contacted all Premiership clubs because it is not just the positions and the general illness, other clubs do suffer that.
“I have not known it as bad as this anywhere to be fair but it’s the front rowing positions where the difficulty lies where you have got to have four props and two hookers and on Thursday we realised we did fulfil that. We informed the league and Gloucester and overnight we went down to only one tighthead and then during the day the other tighthead became very ill, needing medical attention at home.
“So there were a couple of players that came up of not very high experience but if it would have gone to quarter-to-eight at night kick-off time we wouldn’t have been able to fulfil the fixture because two people got ill on Friday morning.
“The regulations state you can’t replay the game,” continued Diamond, who took over at Worcester in January from Jonathan Thomas having initially arrived there in late November as their lead rugby consultant. “We offered to replay the game and the regulations don’t allow that which we thought there could be a sort of postponement of that regulation to allow this fixture to go on at a later date.
“We also asked would it be possible to play a hybrid game where the scrums were non-contested from minute one of the game, which was also refused because the regulations don’t allow that. In our thought process, bearing in mind the safety of the players, we thought we would try anything because there is nothing for us to gain or lose by not playing the game.
“Reputationally it has not been fantastic for us at the moment but it will come out in the wash that we did our very best medically and that is the important thing – it’s not a rugby coach making these decisions, it’s your medical department who are saying no, no and no. So there is no coercement allowed as we know.
“We tried every avenue and there is a lot of emotion flying about over it but if we had got beaten by a well-trained Gloucester team and lost the game, in the grand scheme of things we weren’t going to just benefit by having a further loss.
“There is nothing to gain by getting two points, if that is what the panel decides, or zero points. I think people have got knickers in a twist over it. It has happened to me at Sale this, it happened Bath versus London Irish in January where they couldn’t field two hookers and it was just put away.
“But the emotion of it got a little lost in the reality of the commercial impact is big for Gloucester and I feel sorry for them, I do. But that should never come into question on player welfare.”
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