Cardiff director of rugby Dai Young has confirmed that the club intends to fulfil their Heineken Champions Cup fixture against Toulouse.
It has been a nightmarish number of days for Cardiff, as a 48-strong touring party made up of players and coaches became stranded in South Africa after the identification of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant in the country.
28 players and 14 staff members are expected to fly to Dublin, and then to England on a connecting flight on Thursday morning, while six must remain in Cape Town after testing positive for Covid-19, and will be repatriated following a quarantine period.
The entire Cardiff touring party will be unable to take any part in the club’s game against Toulouse on Saturday, December 11th, as they will not have finished their 10-day quarantine period upon their arrival in the UK by then.
This means that Cardiff will need to field a team made up primarily of academy players against the reigning European and French champions, or forfeit the fixture.
Young, who is currently in South Africa himself, explained that the club are eager to fulfil the fixture.
Dai Young on Cardiff’s fixture against Toulouse.
“Anyone from this trip will be ineligible to face Toulouse and Quins but we have got a number of internationals back home and we’ll do everything in our power to honour these fixtures,” Young said.
“The team will be made up of the internationals who haven’t come with us and some of our best academy players. I’m confident they will do the jersey proud but we need the Cardiff support to get right behind us.
“Gruff Rees will lead the team and he will be assisted by Thomas Rhys Thomas and Richie Rees, who remained in Cardiff to coach those not travelling.
“I know they and the boys will want to do it for the boys in quarantine, we will be watching from our rooms and it will be a real boost if we see a packed Arms Park.
“They will be supporting the boys, those of us in isolation and the club during what has been the most stressful and challenging period I have experienced as a director of rugby. I am confident those players will do the jersey proud.”
? Dai Young has paid tribute to Cardiff Rugby’s staff following efforts to get the club home from South Africa.https://t.co/3ppDLIayyZ
— Cardiff Rugby (@Cardiff_Rugby) December 1, 2021
The Welsh capital face near-insurmountable odds against the European champions.
Should Cardiff beat Toulouse in their Heineken Champions Cup encounter it would likely go down as one of the greatest upsets in the history of rugby, considering the situation the Welsh club find themselves in.
Toulouse would have already been strong favourites to win the game, having won the Champions Cup and Top 14 last year, and they have continued their impressive form in the current season.
Six players who played a role in Wales’ recent internationals and didn’t travel to South Africa – Josh Adams, Willis Halaholo, Tomos Williams, Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies and Ellis Jenkins – may be available, although there are injury concerns over Halaholo and Lewis.
Flanker Olly Robinson will also be available, having not flown to South Africa in order to play for the Barbarians against Samoa (which was ultimately cancelled) but the remainder of the squad will either be academy members or players who could be called up from the Welsh Premiership.