England’s fall curtain has been in chaos after former national captain Chris Robshaw was one of twelve barbarian players who spent an unauthorized night on Wednesday, breaching strict Covid protocols and casting serious doubts on Sunday’s game at Twickenham. The dozen have been banned from the roster and the famous annual game will be canceled if the barbarians fail to find enough replacements by Friday afternoon.
According to Guardian newspaper Robshaw and a number of the team’s Saracen contingents which included Richard Wigglesworth, Sean Maitland and Jackson Wray, 12 players were part of the dinner in central London. The barbarians have strongly denied that it was heavy drinking, but the players broke a Covid code of conduct that they all agreed to.
For Robshaw, who was refused a farewell in Twickenham before moving to the US, it will mark a desperate end to rugby in England. If the game is canceled it will be for the English Rugby Football Union and the Barbarians. This would also deny Eddie Jones’ crucial preparation for the six nations final against Italy the following Saturday.
The barbarian officials are said to be “extremely disappointed” with the players, while the RFU will desperately try not to cancel the game. The union insisted that if substitutes with an adequate history of testing were not found, they would not endanger the safety of players.
It is believed England has already agreed to provide some cadres for the barbarians and a barbarian official was optimistic on Thursday night that the game would continue. However, by Friday afternoon, they have yet to find more substitutes, almost certainly from other international bodies – almost certainly from Wales or Scotland – that are locked in biosecurity bubbles.
While Bristol was tested on Tuesday while it was still on standby for the Premiership final, they weren’t contacted for players until Thursday night. The Premiership Rugby Bristol is unlikely to allow player releases as their bubble ended earlier this week.
An RFU statement reads: “On the evening of October 21, some barbarian players violated the agreed Covid Code of Conduct protocol by leaving their hotel bubble without permission and not informing the organizers of their whereabouts. Upon their return, the players were immediately separated from the rest of the group in the bubble to protect their integrity.
“If enough new players with adequate testing history who have complied with the Code of Conduct can be brought into the barbarian camp, the game will resume. The RFU has planned the game of the barbarians for performance purposes to allow a warm-up game before the postponed decision Italy vs England, six nations. However, this will not compromise the safety of the players. ” – Guardian
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