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Sale Sharks' Premiership play-off hopes ended by 27 positive Covid cases

Bath will now face Exeter, while Wasps meet Bristol in the semi-finals.

SALE SHARKS’ HOPES of featuring in the 2019/20 Gallagher Premiership play-offs are over after their clash with Worcester Warriors this evening was cancelled due to new positive Covid-19 cases in the club.

A total of 27 positive cases in the Sale set-up over the past week have forced them to forfeit the game, which is now officially recorded as a 20-0 win for Worcester.

The game had been due to take place last Sunday along with the other final regular-season round of Premiership fixtures, but Premiership Rugby controversially decided to postpone it – rather than cancelling the game – after an outbreak of Covid-19 in the Sale set-up.

steve-diamond Sale Sharks boss Steve Diamond. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Further Covid-19 testing in the Sale camp yesterday revealed eight more positive cases, leading to the cancellation of tonight’s rescheduled meeting with Worcester.

Premiership Rugby say that “due to the size and severity of the outbreak Premiership Rugby and Sale Sharks are in close contact with Public Health England.”

With Sale unable to play their final regular-season game, Bath’s place in the Premiership play-offs has now been confirmed.

Bath will take on Exeter Chiefs in the semi-finals, while Wasps host Bristol in the other knock-out tie.

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“I have spoken to Sale Sharks this morning and neither the club or Premiership Rugby will take risks with people’s health,” said Premiership Rugby CEO, Darren Childs.

“Together we won’t compromise our commitment that matches will only happen if it is safe to do so, therefore the game is off. Today’s decision demonstrates that commitment.

“Our first thoughts are now with those at the club, both players and management, who have tested positive and we wish them a speedy recovery. We mustn’t forget we have a significant number of people at one of our clubs with Covid-19, and we will give the Sharks all the support they need.

“We know everyone at Sale Sharks will be devastated, and we share their disappointment that their season ends this way. But we can’t jeopardise the health of any players, staff or management at any of our clubs. This is why we took action at the weekend to prevent the match going ahead on its original date, and again today to cancel the game.

“We all love rugby and want it to thrive and grow but sport has to be put in perspective compared to the devastating effects of Covid-19. We aren’t prepared to take unnecessary risks with people’s health.

“We stated there was no room in the calendar for matches to be postponed but last weekend the health of everyone involved took precedent to ensure the Sale Sharks squad could be tested again, following the initial positive tests. Those concerns were proved today when we saw an additional eight positive tests. People fight hard for points in Gallagher Premiership Rugby, and for a place in the semi-final but everyone agrees this has to take second place to people’s health and well-being.

“Covid-19 has created the biggest challenges rugby has ever faced, as it threatens the future of the game, but with this case resolved, it is now crucial we now look forward to two compelling Gallagher Premiership Rugby semi-finals on Saturday, which are followed by two of our clubs contesting European Finals the weekend after and our season ending on a high at Twickenham Stadium on 24 October.”

Premiership Rugby continue to face criticism for not immediately cancelling Sale’s fixture with Worcester after the first cluster of positive Covid-19 cases was revealed.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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