Exeter boss Rob Baxter has refused to blame Sale for the chaotic situation that resulted in Gallagher Premiership officials being left until Wednesday morning before finally being in a position to confirm the exact pairings for next Saturday’s 2019/20 semi-finals. 


With Sale claiming in the run-up to last Sunday’s postponement against Worcester that they were still capable of fielding a matchday 23 free of Covid despite 19 positive cases at the club, Premiership officials were forced to rearrange the match until three days later rather than cancel it there and then as it would have been against the league’s own regulations.

Instead, they had to accept Sale’s standpoint and the compromise was another round of testing prior to Wednesday’s rearranged match.

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The latest testing batch revealed eight further positive tests for coronavirus among the Sale squad, bringing the tally to 27, and it was only then, nine hours before Wednesday night’s planned kick-off, that the game was officially cancelled and the Premiership could confirm Exeter will host Bath while Wasps will face Bristol next Saturday.  

Rather than criticise Sale for the delay, however, Exeter boss Baxter was sympathetic to the Manchester club regarding what had happened. “The regulations are now deemed not to have covered enough bases, but the reality is that this is one game where the regulations have not been able to really deal with the scenario of every game that has been played. 

“There has been an awful lot of games where the regulations have been fine (52 matches with just two cancellations). Not just the regulations around Covid but the regulations around game minutes for players, squad rotation, how many times you can start games etc. On the whole, as a set of regulations into a completely unknown quantity, they have pretty much done the job. 


“What is highlighted now is there probably needed to be another line or another paragraph of regulation saying that something about multiple outbreaks of whatever number and a decision will get made over the cancellation, postponement or awarding of points. 

“That was never in the regulations, so all of a sudden you can’t blame Sale for saying we can fulfil a fixture. That is the reality, that is what the regulation says. Now we might need to add in that paragraph. I suspect that will happen before we start the new season but to turn around now in hindsight, you can’t have everything. 

“Has it been frustrating waiting until Wednesday to find out who we are playing? Of course, it has. It’s ridiculous to say it hasn’t been. Is it anybody’s fault and is there anything PRL could necessarily have done to change the process? In hindsight, yes, but hindsight doesn’t work like that.”



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