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Scarlets concede Champions Cup opener against Bristol following Covid chaos

The Welsh side currently have 32 players in quarantine in a hotel near Belfast.

Scarlets will not fulfil their opening Champions Cup fixture.
Scarlets will not fulfil their opening Champions Cup fixture.
Image: Ryan Hiscott/INPHO

SCARLETS HAVE FORFEITED their Champions Cup opener against Bristol Bears this weekend, with the Welsh side outlining they feel unable to safely field a match day squad for the game.

Scarlets were one of four United Rugby Championship teams caught up in the recent Covid chaos in South Africa.

Having returned from South Africa last week, they were due to travel to Ashton Gate on Saturday for their opening Champions Cup fixture.

However they have now decided to concede the Pool B fixture, which will be awarded to Bristol Bears on a 28-0, five match points basis.

Scarlets currently have 32 players in quarantine in a hotel near Belfast, and while EPCR extended the player registration window for the Champions Cup to 8 December, the club have been unable to piece together a squad for the fixture, with only 14 fit players available for training this week.

The group of players and staff who travelled to South Africa will not finish their 10-day quarantine period until Friday, the day before the Bristol fixture was due to be played.

EPCR said tournament organisers and both clubs had “used their best endeavours to stage the match” before coming to the decision.

“The welfare of our players has to be our priority and following discussions with our staff it was felt that there was too much risk to ask the players currently in quarantine to play a game of this magnitude and intensity just a day after coming out of quarantine,” said Scarlets chairman, Simon Muderack.

“The squad have been in isolation since the news of this Omicron variant first emerged when they were still in Durban so it will be something like 15 days in all. Also, a lot of the players haven’t played since the Benetton game on 22 October. As a club we have a duty of care to our players.

“With only 14 squad members training at the Parc, half of them young development players, we did look into the possibility of registering players from other regions and we have been grateful for the positive response from Ospreys and Dragons. But, any players we did loan would effectively be ‘cup-tied’ which has made that option a challenge as well.

“With the integrity of the competition in mind, we felt we were unable to put together a match-day 23 that would safely be able to take the field against the Bears.”

The club have returned no positive Covid-19 cases prior to leaving South Africa and since arriving in Northern Ireland.

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With the Bristol game cancelled, Scarlets’ next fixture is due to be a home Champions Cup clash with Bordeaux-Begles on Sunday, 19 December.

As it stands, the other three URC clubs that travelled to South Africa are due to fulfil their opening European fixtures.

Cardiff Blues host Toulouse on Saturday, before Munster travel to play Wasps on Sunday, while in the Challenge Cup, Zebre take on Biarritz on Saturday.

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Ciarán Kennedy

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