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Worcester could boycott controversial Sale match over serious Covid-19 concerns

Worcester are ready to boycott the match holding up English rugby’s club season – even if they are told it is safe to play.

Warriors are due to play at Sale tomorrow where the home side need victory to deny Bath the final place in Saturday’s Premiership play-offs.

The match was rescheduled after 16 Sharks players and three backroom staff tested positive for coronavirus.

Sale claim to have followed every protocol and say there is no health risk, but Worcester boss Alan Solomons is deeply concerned – arguing that 19 positives constitutes a “definite cluster”.

Moreover he is unconvinced by Sale’s assurance that none of their players went out and partied after winning the Premiership Cup a fortnight ago.

"It is certainly a red flag to have 19 people test positive,” said the lawyer turned Warriors director of rugby. “That is an extraordinarily high number.

“You have to say it lends credence to what I am reading in the media about there being late-night celebrations after the Premiership Cup – and that there was partying going on at Manchester Met University.”

"What is concerning is that that university has many students who have tested positive. They are in lockdown at the moment. The north of England is particularly affected. It is an area where the virus is on the increase.”

In a statement Sale "refuted" all allegations "regarding players being in central Manchester or on university campuses" following the cup final.

However they pledged that "if the club feel it is not safe to play and/or receive one additional positive test" in today's latest round of testing, they will forfeit the match.

For his part Solomons says he trusts the powers-that-be to make the right call but stressed that, whatever they come up with, Worcester reserve the right to make up their own mind.

“They can take the decision they want,” he said. “At that point we will hopefully be in a position of having all the relevant facts, so we can then consider our position properly.

“The decision has to be made on the basis of the health and safety of players, staff and their families. There is no other basis for making it.

“Obviously there are consequences to any decision that is made and those consequences are wide ranging. And they include legal consequences. It is their decision and they bear the consequences of those decisions.”

Should the match get the go-ahead but Worcester snub it, Sale would be awarded the points and advance to the semi-finals at the expense of Bath. If Sharks forfeit or the plug is pulled by the authorities, Bath would progress.

Premiership Rugby's intention is to stage a double header on Saturday with second seeds Wasps at home to Bristol or Sale at 1.30pm and table-topping Exeter hosting Bath, Bristol or Sale at 4.30pm.

However, such is the uncertainty surrounding tomorrow's game that plans to confirm those ties were last night put on ice.

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