Leicester’s Boxing Day match at Newcastle has been cancelled owing to an outbreak of Covid-19 in the Tigers squad amid concerns the Premiership’s festive fixture list could be further impacted before the weekend.
Premiership Rugby announced on Tuesday night that a small outbreak in the Leicester squad has led to a large number of players having to self-isolate with league officials taking the decision to call the match off. A PRL panel will determine the match result with no space in the calendar to reschedule, but it is expected Leicester will receive two points and Newcastle four. That would effectively mean the Falcons collecting four wins from their first four matches since returning to the top flight.
PRL changed its rules at the end of last season because it did not previously have the power to call off Sale’s match against Worcester in October after an outbreak among the Sharks squad. League officials have also introduced new rules in an attempt to distribute the match points in a fairer way, rather than awarding a 28-0 defeat against the team who cannot fulfil the fixture.
Nonetheless, it is a further blow for Leicester given they also had to shut down their training ground due to an outbreak shortly before the season started. They will be hopeful they are still able to fulfil their 3 January fixture at home to Bath, who have been hit by Covid regulations themselves of late. Last week their European match against La Rochelle was called off because 12 of their players had to self-isolate due to a positive case at the Scarlets, their opponents the week earlier.
On Tuesday their director of rugby, Stuart Hooper, confirmed Bath are able to field a matchday squad on Saturday against London Irish. Harlequins are also due to host Bristol while Northampton are set to welcome Worcester and Gloucester are scheduled to travel to Exeter, who had an outbreak into double figures last week, and were anxiously awaiting this week’s results. Sale host Wasps on Sunday.
Premiership Rugby will wait until all close contacts of positive cases across the league have been identified before making the results of Monday’s tests public on Wednesday with multiple sources indicating Leicester are not the only team hit by a recent outbreak.
Addressing the precarious nature of the coming fixtures, Hooper said: “There is obviously an acceleration of it [Covid] within the general population. Even though our training environment is incredibly secure and even with the testing process we go through, people still exist in the general population.
“We don’t live in a bubble altogether. We have to respect that all together and we have to respect the safety of our players, staff and families but also we want to play rugby if it is safe to do so. We always go along when PRL talk about anything from the testing pool but we are in training and we are here and are getting ourselves ready for Boxing Day.”