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Gordon Arons/INPHO Munster at training in Pretoria last week.
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Munster have been given the go-ahead to fly home from South Africa
Two members of the touring party will have to remain in Cape Town.

MUNSTER HAVE BEEN given the green light to fly home from South Africa, according to the Minister for Sport, Jack Chambers.

Chambers said today that two members of Munster’s touring party, one who tested positive for Covid-19 and one close contact, will remain behind in Cape Town in isolation but the remainder of their 48-person group have been given the go-ahead to depart.

It remains unclear exactly when Munster will be able to fly out of South Africa, with their entire touring party remaining in isolation and waiting for the latest results of their PCR testing.

The southern province had been due to leave Cape Town yesterday on a charter flight along with Scarlets, Zebre, and Cardiff – who had also travelled to South Africa to play two United Rugby Championship games, all of which were postponed after the identification of the new ‘Omicron’ variant of Covid-19.

While Scarlets and Zebre made it onto that flight yesterday, Munster had to cancel their plans to join them at a very late stage following the positive Covid result. Cardiff reported two positive Covid cases, with one suspected to be the new ‘Omicron’ variant.

Those positives forced Munster and Cardiff to return to their hotels in Cape Town and re-enter isolation as Scarlets and Zebre flew to Ireland.

However, Chambers said this afternoon that Munster have now been given the go-ahead to bring all but two of their touring party home.

“They’re obviously free to travel as of today,” Chambers told RTÉ News. “That wasn’t the case yesterday, so there’s intensive work ongoing to try allow them to come home as quickly as possible.

“As you know, there are difficulties in the travel situation in southern Africa at the moment, but there’s intensive work ongoing by officials across government to try and help the team and work with the IRFU to get them home.” 

This news may boost the prospect of Munster’s scheduled Champions Cup clash with Wasps in Coventry on Sunday 12 December going ahead.

That said, it remains to be seen exactly when Munster will be able to leave South Africa and the southern province’s squad and staff will have to isolate for 10 days upon their arrival back into Ireland, as well as returning two negative PCR results during that time.

Munster last played a game six weeks ago. Several of Munster’s Ireland internationals did not travel with them to South Africa after involvement in the Autumn Nations Series, but it seems highly unlikely they will have a chance to train with the rest of the province’s senior squad to any great extent before that Wasps clash.

Munster’s latest official update from South Africa this afternoon includes no mention of a specific date for returning home.

“We have one player in a different hotel who is doing as well as possible after receiving a positive PCR result, while the remainder of the group are isolating individually at the team hotel,” said Munster head coach Johann van Graan.

All Munster players and staff in South Africa will undergo another round of PCR testing today, with the results from that expected tomorrow.

The province also confirmed that academy manager Ian Costello is overseeing training for their returning Ireland internationals and academy players as “preparations continue” for the Champions Cup game against Wasps.

The42 understands that Munster have also been exploring the possibility of bringing in additional players on loan from the other Irish provinces if required.

EPCR, the organisers of European club rugby competition, have been in meetings about the entire situation today, given that Munster, Cardiff, Scarlets, and Zebre are all due to play in the Champions Cup or Challenge Cup in two weekends’ time.

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Zebre have already returned to Italy and are now in isolation in Parma, with their latest batch of Covid tests on players and staff members all returning negative results.

Meanwhile, Scarlets are isolating in Belfast for now but they hope to be able to return to Wales soon.

“This has been a whirlwind of a time and we are very grateful to the people in the background who are helping us during this challenging period, and for all the best wishes we are receiving,” said Munster boss van Graan.

“We have one player in a different hotel who is doing as well as possible after receiving a positive PCR result, while the remainder of the group are isolating individually at the team hotel.

“Work is ongoing with all relevant authorities in securing our return to Ireland at a time when safe and appropriate but for now our priority is to look after our players and staff.

“While this is a time of uncertainty for all involved, we are doing everything possible to support our people.” 

Meanwhile, the URC has confirmed that two South African derbies initially scheduled for February 2022 have been brought forward and will now be played this coming weekend in place of the postponed games involving Munster, Zebre, Scarlets, and Cardiff.

The Sharks will host the Bulls in Durban on Friday, with the Lions visiting the Stormers on Saturday.


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