Bath face Exeter after more Sale Covid cases
Bath Rugby will play in their first Gallagher Premiership semifinal for five years after it was confirmed that Sale Sharks had been forced to forfeit their final game of the season.
Sale’s Round 22 match with Worcester Warriors was controversially postponed on Sunday following an outbreak of 19 cases of Covid19 at the club.
Meanwhile Bath drew 17-17 with Saracens at Allianz Park to drop to fourth in the table, meaning if Sale had won their game in hand last night (Wednesday) they would have agonisingly pushed the West Country side out of the play-off positions.
However on Wednesday results came back from Premiership Rugby’s weekly coronavirus testing programme which saw all Sale Sharks players and staff members tested on Tuesday and an additional six players and two staff were found to have the virus, meaning there have been a total of 27 positive tests at Sale Sharks in the past seven days .
As a result the game was forfeited and Worcester Warriors were awarded a 20-0 victory.
But more significantly Bath’s place in the semi-finals is now certain and Stuart Hooper’s side will travel to league leaders Exeter Chiefs on Saturday (4.30pm kick-off) in a bid to make their first final since 2014/15 when the Blue, Black and Whites were beaten 28-16 by Saracens.
Hooper said in response to the news: “We have given everything we’ve got to this competition and I feel incredibly proud to have earned the right to be in the play-offs. We are determined to head to Sandy Park this weekend and play for our place in the final.
“It cannot go unsaid that we also understand how difficult this week has been for players and staff at Sale, Worcester, Gloucester and Northampton.
“We know what you have all given this season and the sacrifices you have all made. We are part of the same community and no one wants to hear that any Club is experiencing these extraordinary challenges, especially at this time in the season. Importantly, we would like to wish all players and staff at Sale a full and quick recovery for those currently experiencing covid-19 symptoms.”
Wasps will face Bristol Bears earlier in the day in the other semi-final at the Ricoh Arena, kicking off at 1.30pm.
Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs said: “I have spoken to Sale Sharks this morning (Wednesday) and neither the club or Premiership Rugby will take risks with people’s health. 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.”