New confirmed cases of coronavirus at Sale Sharks mean they have forfeited tonight's game with Worcester, leaving Bath to complete the Premiership semi-final line-up
Sale v Worcester cancelled, Bath in play-offs
Tonight’s Gallagher Premiership match between Sale and Worcester has been cancelled. Worcester have been awarded a 20-0 win and five league points.
The decision comes after a new round of testing for Covid-19 revealed that an additional six players and two staff had returned positive tests. All were immediately placed into isolation for ten days. It means there have been 27 positive tests at Sale Sharks in the last seven days, compared to 68 positives across the entire league during the previous 12 weeks.
Sale has been well placed to claim the remaining Premiership play-off spot, with a straightforward win sufficient to qualify for their first semi-final since 2006. But Bath have now secured that place and will face Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park in the second semi-final on Saturday. Wasps v Bristol at the Ricoh Arena is the other semi.
Sale’s match with Worcester was meant to have taken place last Sunday, but was postponed in the wake of an explosion of Covid cases among the squad.
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Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs said: “I have spoken to Sale Sharks this morning and neither the club nor Premiership Rugby will take risks with people’s health.
“Together we won’t compromise our commitment that matches will only happen if it is safe to do so, therefore the game is off. Today’s decision demonstrates that commitment.
“Our first thoughts are now with those at the club, both players and management, who have tested positive and we wish them a speedy recovery. We mustn’t forget we have a significant number of people at one of our clubs with Covid-19, and we will give the Sharks all the support they need.
“We know everyone at Sale Sharks will be devastated, and we share their disappointment that their season ends this way. But we can’t jeopardise the health of any players, staff or management at any of our clubs.
“We stated there was no room in the calendar for matches to be postponed but last weekend the health of everyone involved took precedent to ensure the Sale Sharks squad could be tested again, following the initial positive tests. Those concerns were proved today when we saw an additional eight positive tests.
“People fight hard for points in Gallagher Premiership rugby, and for a place in the semi-final, but everyone agrees this has to take second place to people’s health and wellbeing.
“Covid-19 has created the biggest challenges rugby has ever faced, as it threatens the future of the game. But with this case resolved, it is crucial we now look forward to two compelling semi-finals on Saturday, which are followed by two of our clubs contesting European finals the weekend after and our season ending on a high at Twickenham on 24 October.”
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As required under the Professional Game Board’s Minimum Operating Standards, Sale will now complete their contact tracing and will isolate any contacts (of those players who tested positive) for a period of 14 days. An independent audit, by the RFU, of the track and trace processes at the club is also being undertaken.
Meanwhile, Worcester Warriors welcomed Premiership Rugby’s decision to cancel tonight’s match. “This is the right outcome for the safety of all players, staff and officials involved,” said a club statement, “although we do have sympathy for Sale that such an important match has been decided in this way.
“Sadly, we are playing rugby in the middle of a pandemic and in unprecedented circumstances. While it is desirable to retain the integrity of all competitions as much as possible, ultimately the health and safety of all involved has to be the absolute priority.”
Gallagher Premiership semi-finals on Saturday 10 October:
1.30pm: Wasps v Bristol Bears
4.30pm: Exeter Chiefs v Bath
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