The Champions Cup was rocked by the pandemic ahead of this weekend’s first round of matches, with the Scarlets losing their game and Cardiff preparing to field an ‘unsuitable’ squad including semi-professionals in theirs as Covid- 19 again poisons the European elite.
The Scarlets announced on Tuesday that they would not consider any of the 32 players in quarantine until Friday for their game in Bristol 24 hours later and therefore will not be able to field a team, giving the Bears a 28-0 victory. Cardiff, meanwhile, have insisted their game against defending champions Toulouse will continue, but with 42 players and staff in quarantine the Champions Cup is set to get off to a ridiculous start.
Last season five games were called off and two full rounds were called off due to the pandemic and although this weekend’s disruption was due to United Rugby Championship teams being captured in South Africa during With the introduction of tighter border controls, Champions Cup organizers will be ready for further upheaval as the Omicron variant takes hold in Europe.
England’s teams competing abroad – the Harlequins and Leicester start their campaigns in France – are already facing stricter testing procedures after the introduction of updated government guidelines on Tuesday morning. Six Nations organizers will also be watching closely, with the variant potentially threatening the best plans for next year’s competition.
The Scarlets found themselves at a disadvantage, with organizers insisting that a postponement of Saturday’s game was not possible, leaving the Welsh side with just 14 players available. They explored the Ospreys and Dragons emergency loans, but ultimately decided that forfeiture was the only viable option.
“This is a decision we did not take lightly,” Scarlets executive chairman Simon Muderack said. âUltimately, the well-being of our players must be our priority and following discussions with our staff, it was felt that there was too much risk in asking players currently in quarantine to play a game. match of this magnitude and intensity just a day after being released from quarantine. “
Cardiff, however, will support and field academy players as well as semi-pros against Toulouse, but may call on Welsh internationals Josh Adams, Ellis Jenkins and Tomos Williams. âWe have a slightly unsuitable group coming together,â said academy director Gruff Rees, who has assumed temporary responsibility for Dai Young in quarantine. “There is less pressure in some ways, but we have that responsibility than anyone else on the pitch, we represent a great rugby club in a great competition.”
Meanwhile, South African opener Handre Pollard has confirmed he has turned down more lucrative offers to join Leicester next season. Pollard’s arrival at Welford Road as George Ford’s replacement was confirmed on Tuesday with the 27-year-old’s revelation: “There are bigger deals on the table, but I made this decision to work with him. Steve [Borthwick] and be part of a big unreal Leicester Tigers club that has such a great history.