MANCHESTER, England (AP) — A key final-round match of the regular season in English rugby’s top division was called off Wednesday after one of the teams involved had 27 positive tests for the coronavirus in the last week.
Sale Sharks said it was “devastating” to have to forfeit its match against Worcester Warriors after eight more people at the club contracted COVID-19 in the latest round of checks. Nineteen players or staff members tested positive for the virus last week.
The forfeit means the match is awarded 20-0 to Worcester and Sale missed out of qualifying for the end-of-season playoffs as the Manchester-based club went for its first English title since 2006.
“Although everyone at Sale Sharks is disappointed to see our campaign end in this manner,” a club statement read, “the club wholly understand that the welfare of players, staff and officials is the most important factor.”
The Sharks said weekend reports that their players “acted irresponsibly by partying and socializing throughout Manchester” after a cup win were inaccurate.
The Premiership said it had been willing to postpone the game from its original date last weekend to give Sale an opportunity for more testing, but that there was no room in the calendar for a second delay with the playoff semifinals scheduled for Saturday.
The beneficiary was Bath, which was confirmed in fourth place and will now take on defending champion Exeter. Wasps play Bristol in the other semifinal match.
“Sport has to be put in perspective compared to the devastating effects of COVID-19,” the league said. “We aren’t prepared to take unnecessary risks with people’s health.”
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