Sale wait to discover if game against Worcester can go ahead

Sale wait on fresh test results to discover if Wednesday’s game against Worcester can go ahead after 16 players test positive for coronavirus… with Sharks’ Premiership title prospects hanging by a thread

  • Last week, 16 Sale players and three staff members contracted coronavirus 
  • Director of Rugby Steve Diamond named a ‘Covid compliant’ squad on Tuesday 
  • Sharks will have to forfeit crucial Premiership clash if anyone else tests positive 
  • Meanwhile, Piers Francis will now not join up with England after testing positive 

English club rugby was on Tuesday night on the brink of renewed turmoil, recriminations and legal action, as Sale waited to discover if their rescheduled fixture against Worcester would be authorised.

The Cheshire club’s Premiership title prospects are hanging by a thread after a Covid outbreak and they are due to receive fresh test results in the early hours of on Wednesday morning. 

Late last week, 16 Sale players and three staff members tested positive — forcing their clash with the Warriors to be postponed and plunging the league into chaos.

Sale are waiting to see if fresh test results means the crucial Worcester clash can go ahead

Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond (L) has put together a strong team to face Worcester

Sale: L James; Solomona, S James, Hill, Yarde; R du Preez, Cliff; Harrison, Neild, Morozov, Postlethwaite, J-L du Preez, Ross (capt), Curry, D du Preez

Replacements: Ashman, Ford, Jones, Murphy, Dugdale, Bedlow, Curtis, Doherty

Steve Diamond, Sale’s director of rugby, on Tuesday named a strong ‘Covid compliant’ starting XV for the fixture, which kicks off at 7.45pm at the AJ Bell Stadium. 

However, the Sharks will forfeit the game if they receive any further positives — while Worcester reserve the right to act in their own best interests, even if the authorities deem it safe to play. 

The visitors are due to set off from their ground, Sixways, at 12.30pm, by which time they expect to have been informed whether the latest tests on their opponents have rendered the journey north unnecessary.

A decision on the fixture must be made by Premiership Rugby, in conjunction with the RFU and Public Health England. 

The RFU were on Tuesday night concluding an audit of Sale’s track and trace processes and a review of data and footage which will determine if players chosen by Diamond meet certain thresholds. 

It is understood anyone judged to have had more than 15 minutes of face-to-face or ‘skin-to-skin’ contact with another player who has tested positive cannot play.

So much is at stake for Sale, hence their desperation to fulfil the fixture. Worcester have nothing tangible to play for now their hopes of qualifying for the Heineken Champions Cup have been dashed. 

Diamond will deploy a full-strength back row which will include Dan du Preez (middle)

England flanker Tom Curry is also expected to line up alongside du Preez on the back row

Sources indicate that Warriors players were convinced the postponed match would not take place and the club hierarchy may yet forfeit it with safety in mind, in which case Sale would qualify for a play-off semi-final against Wasps in Coventry on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the RFU confirmed that Northampton centre Piers Francis, 30, is unable to attend this week’s England training camp in Teddington after testing positive for Covid. 

He came on as a replacement for Saints in last Tuesday’s defeat by Sale at Franklin’s Gardens. Francis is self-isolating, days after his club reluctantly forfeited their final league game against Gloucester.

Piers Francis will not attend this week’s England training camp after testing positive for Covid

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