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McFadden apologises after he was among group of 12 Barbarians to breach coronavirus protocols

Several Barbarians players left the team hotel in London earlier in the week resulting in the cancellation of Sunday’s game against England.

File photo of Fergus McFadden.
File photo of Fergus McFadden.
Image: Tom O'Hanlon/INPHO

Updated Oct 23rd 2020, 9:30 PM

FERGUS MCFADDEN HAS apologised after the Barbarians’ match against England on Sunday has been cancelled due to a breach in coronavirus protocols by Barbarians players, the Rugby Football Union has announced.

McFadden and veterans Chris Robshaw, Richard Wigglesworth and Sean Maitland were among a contingent of 12 who left the team hotel in central London on Wednesday night in order to have dinner.

The Barbarians were scrambling to fill the gaps in their squad before a deadline of 3pm set by the RFU, who are investigating the breach with a view to summoning any transgressors before an independent disciplinary hearing.

And after learning there was an additional breach of protocol on top of the incident already known, the governing body said it had no choice but to cancel the match, which was due to be played at Twickenham.

“As part of its ongoing investigation into a breach of the Covid code of conduct that took place on October 21, the RFU has discovered there was an earlier undisclosed breach that took place on October 20 when a number of Barbarians players left the hotel bubble without permission and without informing organisers about their whereabouts,” an RFU statement read.

The RFU has concluded that the players leaving their Covid-secure environment on October 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.”

McFadden, 34, apologised for the incident on Twitter, saying: “I want to front up and apologise profusely for my part in letting down @barbarians_fc. I greatly regret that the game will not be going ahead now. I am embarrassed and whole heartedly apologise to all involved.”

Speaking to Talksport, England’s World Cup winning coach, Clive Woodward, delivered a scathing analysis of the situation.

“It’s just stupidity, they’ve been ridiculously stupid,” Woodward said. “I can’t believe it’s not being spelt out to them. I can’t believe they didn’t know what they’re doing.

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“My reaction was just kind of gobsmacked really. These are professional players and they know what’s at stake. It’s live on TV, it’s a game that everyone was looking forward to.

I can’t believe they’ve been so naive and stupid to think they can get away with it. People could see them, they’re well known people. I just shake my head in disbelief.

“I can believe the Barbarians didn’t sit down and spell it out – A, B, C. This is what you can do and this is what you can’t do. Everyone who steps out of this bubble, you’re gone. You’re history.

“It’s called a bubble for that reason. Some of the players went out, some of them didn’t. Some players listen, some haven’t which makes it even worse in many respects.”

Robshaw has also expressed his regret, issuing an apology via Twitter.

The former England captain said: “I understand that my actions have ultimately contributed to the cancellation of Sunday’s match and I am sincerely remorseful for my role in undoing all the amazing work that went into trying to make it happen.”

Meanwhile, the RFU’s chief executive, Bill Sweeney, also outlined how costly this cancellation is – from a financial perspective as well as tarnishing the game’s image.

“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,” RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said.

“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.”

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