Covid crisis forces Scarlets to concede Bristol game

The Welsh outfit - along with Munster and Cardiff - were severely depleted with the majority of the squad forced into isolation due to the emergence of the Covid-19 Omicron variant while they were in South Africa for United Rugby Championship (URC) games.
Covid crisis forces Scarlets to concede Bristol game

 Sheridan

Scarlets have been forced to concede their Heineken Cup Champions Cup game against Bristol Bears.

The Welsh outfit - along with Munster and Cardiff - were severely depleted with the majority of the squad forced into isolation due to the emergence of the Covid-19 Omicron variant while they were in South Africa for United Rugby Championship (URC) games.

Scarlets say they have only 14 fit players in training with the remainder currently isolating in Belfast.

Their pleas for a re-fixture fell on deaf ears, something which will not be lost on Munster and Cardiff officials ahead of their games against Wasps and  Toulouse respectively.

 "It is a decision we haven't taken lightly," said chairman Simon Muderack. "This is a great fixture between two great clubs, which supporters, players and staff on both sides were all looking forward to."

Muderack continued: "The welfare of our players has to be our priority and following discussions with our staff it was felt that there was too much risk to ask the players currently in quarantine to play a game of this magnitude and intensity just a day after coming out of quarantine. 

"You have to remember, the squad have been in isolation since the news of this Omicron variant first emerged when they were still in Durban so it will be something like 15 days in all.

"Also, a lot of the players haven't played since the Benetton game on October 22. As a club we have a duty of care to our players. We did look into the possibility of registering players from other regions and we have been grateful for the positive response from Ospreys and Dragons. But, any players we did loan would effectively be 'cup-tied' and become Scarlets players for the pool stages of the tournament, which has made that option a challenge as well.

"With the integrity of the competition in mind, we felt we were unable to put together a competitive match-day 23 that would be able to take the field against the Bears."

Muderack added: "I am sure everyone will understand the situation we have found ourselves in through no fault of our own.

"I would also like to stress that we have returned no positive Covid-19 cases in all the rounds of PCR testing prior to leaving and since arriving in South Africa and Northern Ireland. 

"We would like to thank everyone at Bristol Bears and EPCR for their understanding of our predicament and look forward to welcoming Pat Lam and his side to Parc y Scarlets for the return fixture in January."

The tournament organisers confirmed the cancellation and that Bristol Bears are awarded the match on a 28-0 scoreline.

"EPCR have been informed by Scarlets that due to player welfare concerns and the club’s inability to safely field a match day squad, they are not in a position to fulfil their Heineken Champions Cup, Round 1 fixture against Bristol Bears scheduled for Saturday, 11 December at Ashton Gate.

"The fixture in Pool B is therefore cancelled with Bristol Bears awarded the match on a 28-0, five match points basis, in accordance with the Tournament Rules.

"Scarlets, Bristol Bears and EPCR used their best endeavours to stage the match, however, this has not been possible and it is regrettable that the fixture is now cancelled.

"EPCR acknowledges the unfortunate circumstances which have impacted on Scarlets’ players and staff through no fault of their own, and would like to emphasise that awarding the match to Bristol Bears is a tournament management measure with the objective of ensuring that all fixtures in the 2021/22 Heineken Champions Cup are accounted for.

"EPCR has been in regular dialogue with Scarlets in recent days to offer guidance and support, and best wishes are extended to everyone at the club

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