Bath’s derby against Bristol at Ashton Gate on 29 January is in doubt after their players and staff were sent home on Tuesday to isolate after a number of positive Covid-19 tests at the club.
Bath’s training ground, Farleigh House, is closed for a deep clean and another round of testing will be conducted on Thursday before the scheduled round next Monday. Bristol’s tests this week were all negative. Those who tested positive at Bath will have to isolate for at least 10 days, ruling them out of the Bristol match, along with their close contacts. Bath have already had two fixtures cancelled this season, against La Rochelle and London Irish, and their only victory came against Worcester.
“This is an anxious time for us all and the mental as well as physical health of our people and their families is our priority,” the Bath director of rugby, Stuart Hooper, said. “Our planned training sessions have been cancelled and those able to train from home will now do so. My team and I are focused on doing all we can to be ready to play our forthcoming fixtures, but I must reinforce that I will not allow the health of our people to be compromised.”
A decision on whether the match at Bristol will go ahead will be taken after Monday’s round of testing. Five Premiership matches have been called off this season, affecting seven clubs, but Bristol are among the five sides to have played all their fixtures.
With no room in the schedule for rearranged matches, the games have been cancelled and four points awarded to the side that did not cause the fixture to be called off, with the other side getting two. It has led to a number of clubs calling for relegation to be suspended and the Premiership expanded to 13 clubs next season to accommodate Saracens, who are expected to win the Championship.
Bath’s last match was against Wasps, when they scored 44 points at home and lost. Dai Young, who has taken over at Cardiff Blues for the rest of the season, parted company with Wasps a year ago after an indifferent start to the season and watched them reach the Premiership final under head coach Lee Blackett.
“I needed a break having felt a bit of burnout,” said Young. “When relegation was no longer an issue, the club and I agreed that it was time to part company.
“I would love to have been a part of getting to the final having employed the coaches and signed the players, but I felt a little more vindicated. I bear no grudges and am still a Wasps fan.”
Elsewhere, the Rugby Football Union released a one-off commemorative kit that England will wear for this year’s Calcutta Cup match to mark the 150th anniversary of English rugby.