Rugby: England-Barbarians cancelled due to Covid breach

England’s clash against the Barbarians on Saturday has been cancelled after multiple players breached coronavirus-related rules, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) has announced.

The Quilter Cup match, originally scheduled for Twickenham on Saturday, has been cancelled after “a number” of Barbarians players left the team hotel on Tuesday without permission.

England must now face Italy in their Six Nations finale on Oct. 31 without a warm-up match.

The RFU said in a statement: “The RFU has concluded that the players leaving their Covid-secure environment on Oct. 20 without then isolating from the rest of the group on their return has resulted in the bubble environment being compromised, with the potential risk of Covid transmission from individuals outside the bubble to everyone in the Barbarians team and management.

“The RFU is therefore left with no alternative but to cancel the game.”

The RFU also said it will not release details on individuals or numbers of players involved until its ongoing investigation is concluded.

However, former England captain Chris Robshaw and Saracens’ Richard Wigglesworth and Jackson Wray have said they were among the Barbarians players to breach the Covid rules. All three players were quick to apologise via Twitter on Friday.

“I want to express my deepest apologies for breaching the Barbarians COVID-19 restrictions by leaving the hotel post-training with some of my teammates,” Robshaw said. “A huge effort went into conducting this match in a safe fashion and it was irresponsible of me to break the protocols which are put in place to protect players, staff and the public.”

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said: “We are incredibly disappointed to be calling a halt to this fixture, we know how much fans were looking forward to seeing the teams play. However, our priority is to protect the health and safety of the England squad and the other international teams they will go up against this autumn.

“There has been a great deal of effort put into Covid codes of conduct and planning for games, including cooperation with Premiership clubs to release additional players to fulfil the fixture safely, and we are all incredibly frustrated and disappointed that the actions of a number of Barbarians players mean we no longer feel it is safe for the game to go ahead.”

After their final Six Nations game next weekend, head coach Eddie Jones’ side face Georgia, Ireland and Wales in November as part of the Autumn Nations Cup.

Words: Connor O’Halloran | Subbed: Zakia Nissar

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