Sale’s rescheduled final-round Gallagher Premiership clash with Worcester has been cancelled, Premiership Rugby has confirmed.
The match was originally due to be played on Sunday but was postponed after 16 players and three backroom staff from the title-chasing Sharks tested positive for coronavirus last week.
In an additional round of testing conducted on Tuesday, six new players and two staff tested positive, making the AJ Bell Stadium clash unsafe to play.
Sale’s play-off quest is now over after they were forced to forfeit the game, a 20-0 win being awarded to Worcester.
CLUB STATEMENT | Sale Sharks forfeit their Gallagher Premiership Round 22 match with Worcester Warriors on health and safety grounds.
— Sale Sharks🦈 (@SaleSharksRugby) October 7, 2020
A PRL panel met on Wednesday morning and in light of the new positive tests, which takes the club’s total to 27, decided to cancel the game.
“I have spoken to Sale Sharks this (Wednesday) morning and neither the club nor Premiership Rugby will take risks with people’s health,” PRL chief executive Darren Childs said.
“Together we won’t compromise our commitment that matches will only happen if it is safe to do so, therefore the game is off. (Wednesday’s) decision demonstrates that commitment.
“Our first thoughts are now with those at the club, both players and management, who have tested positive and we wish them a speedy recovery.
“We mustn’t forget we have a significant number of people at one of our clubs with Covid-19 and we will give the Sharks all the support they need.
“We know everyone at Sale Sharks will be devastated and we share their disappointment that their season ends this way.
“We stated there was no room in the calendar for matches to be postponed but last weekend the health of everyone involved took precedence to ensure the Sale Sharks squad could be tested again, following the initial positive tests.
“Those concerns were proved (on Wednesday) when we saw additional positive tests. People fight hard for points in the Premiership, and for a place in the semi-final, but everyone agrees this has to take second place to people’s health and well-being.”
As well as the additional round of testing that was completed on Tuesday with the results returned in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the club have been the focus of an investigation by the Rugby Football Union.
All track and trace details, GPS data, training footage and temperature checks were submitted to the RFU, but it is the new cases of Covid-19 that have brought a halt their desperate attempts to stage the game.
Sale have issued another strong rebuttal of reports suggesting that the outbreak is the result of a drinking session as the squad celebrated victory in the Premiership Rugby Cup final last month.
“Throughout the last six months, we have followed the official guidelines and protocols given to us by the RFU and PRL, with rigorous testing regimes and safety measures in place to protect everyone connected to the game,” a Sharks statement read.
“We are confident the audit carried out by the RFU over the past few days will confirm this absolutely. Reports over the weekend suggesting our players acted irresponsibly by partying and socialising throughout Manchester after our Premiership Rugby Cup victory are completely inaccurate and untrue.”
Worcester, whose team coach was due to leave Sixways at 12.30pm, approved of the decision.
“We welcome the cancellation of tonight’s match,” a statement read.
🏟️ Not how we wanted the season to end but Warriors have been awarded the points after Sale were unable to field a team.
— Worcester Warriors (@WorcsWarriors) October 7, 2020
“This is the right outcome for the safety of all players, staff and officials involved, although we do have sympathy for Sale that such an important match has been decided in this way.
“Sadly, we are playing rugby in the middle of a pandemic and in unprecedented circumstances.
“While it is desirable to retain the integrity of all competitions as much as possible, ultimately the health and safety of all involved has to be the absolute priority.
“Now we know that our own players are not at any increased risk, our thoughts are with those at Sale and Northampton who have tested positive for Covid-19.
“We wish them all a speedy recovery and hope that no further cases are reported.”