Wasps in grave danger of being forced to FORFEIT Premiership final following Covid-19 outbreak in squad… with Bristol postponing end-of-season parties to step in against Exeter at Twickenham
- Wasps are in grave danger of being forced to withdraw from Premiership Final
- Wasps had three more of their players test positive for Covid with total of 11
- The finalists would be replaced by Bristol if they were forced to withdraw
Wasps are in grave danger of being forced to withdraw from Saturday’s Premiership Final due to a growing COVID outbreak, forcing Bristol to postpone end-of-season parties and holidays to take their place.
Wasps discovered on Monday that three more of their players and another member of staff had tested positive for the virus, taking their total number of cases to 11.
With all those involved and their ‘close contacts’ forced into isolation, Wasps face having to pull out of the final, with Bristol — the team they thrashed 47-24 in the semi-final — taking their place.
Wasps are in grave danger of being forced to withdraw from Premiership Final due to Covid-19
Bristol may be forced to postpone end-of-season parties and holidays to take their place
There will be a further round of scheduled tests at Wasps Tuesday and the fear is that any more positive results would force Premiership Rugby — in consultation with Public Health England — to declare that Lee Blackett’s side have to stand down.
A decision is due to be made on Wednesday, in light of the outcome of testing not just at Wasps but also at Exeter, who they are supposed to be taking on at Twickenham, and Bristol.
Premiership Rugby announced last week that, before the season resumption in August, all clubs had agreed to a contingency plan which would involve the next highest-ranked team being promoted to take part in the final, if either qualifier had to withdraw due to Covid.
Bristol finished third in the table so, despite being thrashed at the Ricoh Arena, they are on stand-by.
This astonishing development follows the upheaval already caused by the recent outbreak at Sale, which saw a total of 27 players and staff members test positive. The Cheshire club were in the hunt to make the play-offs and challenge for the title, but had to forfeit their final regular-season match against Worcester, missing out on a top-four place.
A decision is due to be made on Wednesday on who Exeter’s opponents will be at Twickenham
If Wasps are denied their rightful involvement in Saturday’s final, it will be a cruel fate for a club who have enjoyed a stunning resurgence since Blackett took charge in February. They won 12 of their last 13 league matches to surge up the table from 10th place, to finish as runners-up behind Exeter.
Meanwhile, Bristol are hurriedly scrambling to re-focus, after a few days spent celebrating their European Challenge Cup success, believing their season was over.
Director of rugby Pat Lam reiterated his wish that Wasps will be cleared to play new European champions Exeter on merit, but he and his coaches are having to prepare their Bears for the possibility of a shot at the league title.
Lam said: ‘We absolutely believe that Wasps and Exeter should be contesting this final. They thoroughly deserve it. Lee (Blackett) has done an unbelievable job and it’s fantastic for the Premiership to see what Exeter did on Saturday (lifting the European Cup).
‘We ourselves have been put in a situation that isn’t ideal, but everything with Covid isn’t ideal. To get back for restart, there were a lot of things that we all signed up to — midweek games, forfeitures if you can’t fulfil games — no postponement. One of the things was the play-off situation. We never thought we’d get there, though we knew it was a possibility. This is what we signed up to.’
Pat Lam revealed he and his coaches were due to pick a squad on Monday to prepare to step in
Asked if he was uncomfortable with the notion of a team who had been eliminated from the competition going on to win it, Lam added: ‘It’s not ideal, but this whole season hasn’t been ideal.’
Lam revealed he and his coaches were due to pick a squad on Monday to prepare as if they would be in the final, first of all by training today to ‘flush out the bodies — to get those celebration juices out’.
Some players didn’t sleep after their Challenge Cup win in Aix-en-Provence last Friday night, before flying home early the next morning. Further festivities are on hold.
‘We have a players’ room all decked out in Hawaiian gear,’ said Lam. ‘We were supposed to have our end-of-season party on Saturday. We had to postpone that. At lunchtime there was a stop on drinking alcohol. A lot of us are all booked to go on holiday. That’s on hold.’
Meanwhile, Wales have been cleared to go ahead with their autumn Test schedule as planned, despite a strict lock-down in the country.
A Welsh Government statement read: ‘Fixtures involving professional sportspeople are allowed to continue behind closed doors.’
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