Scarlets have forfeited their upcoming Heineken Champions Cup match against Bristol Bears due to player welfare concerns.
32 Scarlets players are currently in quarantine in Belfast following their return from South Africa, which was put on the UK’s red list for travel following the identification of the Omicron Covid-19 variant in the country.
The players who returned from South Africa are due to come out of quarantine the day before the game against Bristol, but the Scarlets have decided that selecting any of those 32 players would pose a “physical risk” to them because of their period of isolation.
Scarlets’ executive chairman Simon Muderack explained the club’s decision to forfeit the game, which will see Bristol awarded a 28-0 bonus-point victory.
Scarlets explain their decision to forfeit their game against Bristol.
“It is a decision we haven’t taken lightly. This is a great fixture between two great clubs, which supporters, players and staff on both sides were all looking forward to,” Muderack said.
“Ultimately, though, 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.
“With only 14 squad members training at the Parc, half of them young development 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’ 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 match-day 23 that would safely be able to take the field against the Bears.”
Scarlets are disappointed to announce that we have forfeited Saturday’s @ChampionsCup round one match against @BristolBears due to player welfare concerns and the club’s inability to safely field a match-day squad
Full story ▶️ https://t.co/E1SLH2Jo3i
— Scarlets Rugby (@scarlets_rugby) December 7, 2021
Cardiff and Munster intend to play.
Both Cardiff and Munster are in a similar situation to Scarlets, as the bulk of their squads are also currently in quarantine following their return from South Africa.
Cardiff are perhaps the worst affected, as every player who returned from South Africa will still be in quarantine by the time they play Toulouse on Saturday, while Munster’s affected players will finish quarantine the day before their game against Wasps.
Munster have yet to announce whether any of the players currently in quarantine will feature against Wasps, but both them and Cardiff appear determined to fulfil their opening Heineken Champions Cup fixtures.