Barbarians deny ‘shambles’ of Covid call-off was their fault or RFU’s

The Barbarians have claimed a decision by Public Health England led to their fixture against Samoa at Twickenham being called off 90 minutes before kick-off despite their having enough players who had returned negative tests.

A statement released by the Rugby Football Union revealed that four players and two members of staff from the invitational side had tested positive for Covid-19. The scrapping of the game followed last year’s fixture against England being called off after 13 players broke the Covid protocols, leading to widespread condemnation of the players’ behaviour.

As a result the women’s game between the Barbarians and Springbok was moved forward from 5.15pm to 2.30pm. The game – shown live on the BBC – was won by the Barbarians 60-5 in front of 29,581 fans, a world record for a women’s match.

The Barbarians’ Ciara Griffin celebrates a try during the Women’s International against a Springbok Women’s XV, which was brought forward. Photograph: Bob Bradford/CameraSport/Getty Images

The RFU’s decision was roundly criticised, with Jonathan Davies saying it was “an utter shambles”. “It’s not good enough. After the shambles of last year too when some of the Barbarians broke the bubble it is unforgivable,” the former Wales fly-half told the Telegraph.

However, the Barbarians claimed they had enough players within their selection to play the match but it was the testing oversight committee which said the game could not go ahead as it posed a risk to the health of both sides.

The Barbarians said in a statement: “Despite the recent positive Covid tests, we had a fit 23 today who all tested negative this morning. They were ready and keen to take to the pitch against Manu Samoa. The whole squad complied to the letter with the Covid protocols throughout the week, including daily lateral flow tests.

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“After today’s results, we worked hard with the RFU, Public Health England and the testing oversight committee, to find a way that we could play. Unfortunately, it was concluded on medical grounds that there was a risk to players on both sides should the game go ahead.

“All of our players are absolutely devastated they were unable to play today in front of an amazing and passionate crowd.”

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