Premiership rugby bosses have admitted a Covid cock-up by the suppliers of their testing kits led to Bath wrongly having to close their training ground.
The West country club were alarmed to be told on Tuesday that 19 of their players and staff had tested positive for coronavirus – with a further 16 identified as close contacts.
Yet last night Randox Health, the company contracted to carry out the league’s £100,000-a-week testing programme, owned up to its embarrassing blunder.
Rather than a major outbreak at Bath, notification of which had caused the club deep distress, the true figure was instead just one.
And across the 12-club league, instead of multiple positives, Randox confirmed that of 989 players and management tested only two had come back positive.
Bath chief executive Tarquin McDonald said: “It is a huge and welcome relief to understand that this was a false alarm.
“However, this has caused huge disruption to our players, staff and to our training environment during an important two-week break from games.”
This major gaffe comes six months after the Government instructed care homes and members of the public to temporarily stop using kits produced by the company after safety problems were discovered.
Premiership Rugby has promised a thorough investigation.
The upside of the shambolic episode is that Eddie Jones is today able to name his Six Nations squad free of concern that any of his England players will join him in quarantine.
The Red Rose boss is self-isolating for 10 days after forwards coach Matt Proudfoot tested positive.
It was feared the shutdown of Bath’s operation could sideline England trio Anthony Watson, Sam Underhill and Will Stuart.
And in turn that Bath’s next game against Bristol would have to be called off, so forcing Bears prop Kyle Sinckler to serve the entirety of his two-game ban on England time.
Jones is to name a slimmed down squad of 28 players for the entire championship as part of a new agreement between the Rugby Football Union and its clubs aimed at reducing the risk of Covid transmission.
The idea is to limit the movement of players in and out of camp, not least to reassure the French Government, who last week forced the suspension of European club rugby, that everything is being done to guarantee safety.
Paolo Odogwu, the Wasps flyer who qualifies for Italy through his father, is expected to be called up.
Rob Baxter, who coached Exeter Chiefs to the Premiership and European Champions Cup double, has been named Rugby Union Writers' Club personality of the year for 2020. Saracens’ clash with Doncaster is off tomorrow due to two Covid cases in the Sarries camp and 16 told to isolate.
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