Racing 92 players test positive for Covid-19 two weeks before European final

Robert Kitson
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

Racing 92’s preparations for European Champions Cup final against Exeter on 17 October have been thrown into turmoil following reports in France that as many as nine club employees have returned positive coronavirus tests.

The Parisian side’s Top 14 game against La Rochelle on Saturday has already been postponed as the regulations of the Ligue Nationale de Rugby state that any club with three or more positive coronavirus cases cannot compete in competitive fixtures.

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It is not yet clear how many of the positive cases are players who would have to self-isolate for 14 days, leaving them unable to return to Racing’s training ground until three days before they face Exeter at Ashton Gate in Bristol.

It is understood European Professional Club Rugby officials are monitoring the situation and will await the results of the next round of testing on Wednesday before determining if there is a major safety risk involved in staging the final. Last month Leicester were awarded a walkover in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals after several players from Castres returned positive tests.

As things stand, Racing’s game against Toulouse on 10 October is still on but if that situation changes it would leave EPCR with a dilemma. There is an obvious desire to see the Champions Cup final played between two full-strength teams but postponing it would mean negotiating an alternative date in an already crowded fixture calendar.

The Guardian understands two Exeter players have spent the past week in isolation after one of them returned a positive test but both will be available, if selected, for next week’s Premiership semi-final. Rob Baxter, Exeter’s director of rugby, said: “We issue constant reminders to players about this because, as you can see [at Racing], any little mishap can lead to big problems.

“It is virtually impossible to catch Covid within our facility because everyone in the bubble is being tested regularly. Every single person is temperature-checked, health-checked every day. If the odd positive comes up they are isolated immediately.

“The reality is that Covid can only get here if someone brings it in. [The Racing news] is something we’ll have to look at but the reality is that we shouldn’t think about it too much until we know the exact details and get more information.”

The Racing 92 president, Jacky Lorenzetti, whose side lost their two previous European finals in 2016 and 2018, told RMC Sport: “The game against La Rochelle is gone and I don’t know how we will be able to play next week against Toulouse without any preparation. It is a blow but we will deal with it. It is not in our culture to complain.”