Wasps will learn on Wednesday if they are able to participate in the Gallagher Premiership final after the latest round of testing revealed their outbreak of coronavirus has spread.
Four new positives have lifted the total number diagnosed with Covid-19 to 11 in five days – seven players and four backroom staff – to place their involvement in the climax to the season against Exeter on Saturday in severe jeopardy.
The next round of testing takes place on Tuesday, with the results emerging in the early hours of the following morning, at which point Wasps will know if they are able to safely field a team.
Update from Wasps concerning COVID-19 testing…https://t.co/waCm55pD6f
— Wasps Rugby (@WaspsRugby) October 19, 2020
An oversight committee including representatives from the Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby will analyse the data and a decision will be made in conjunction with Public Health England.
Bristol are on standby to take their place on the strength of finishing third in the Premiership, but the Bears were routed 47-24 at the Ricoh Arena on October 10 and their presence would give the occasion a hollow feel.
A withdrawal would be a terrible blow for Wasps, who emerged from lockdown as the competition’s form team with an all-action style under new head coach Lee Blackett that has propelled them up the table.
Even if they are given the all-clear to take part in a repeat of the 2017 final, training has been cancelled since early last week in a desperate bit to halt the outbreak, causing major disruption to their preparations.
“Wasps can confirm that four more members of the playing department have tested positive,” a club statement on Monday afternoon read.
“Those concerned are now self-isolating, as are their close contacts. After consultation with the medical leads at Premiership Rugby, the RFU and Public Health England, the club will continue not to train at this stage.
“The club’s Covid-19 contact tracing, measures and protocols, which remain rigorous, will continue to be adhered to.”
Bristol’s potential route to Twickenham has been criticised amid calls for the title to be awarded to regular-season winners Exeter, but long-standing Premiership regulations state the final determines the winners.
All 13 clubs agreed to protocols drawn up for restart in August that if a team is unable to take part in the final due to coronavirus, the next highest ranked club is elevated into the showpiece.
It is a scenario that leaves Bristol in an uncomfortable position and director of rugby Pat Lam is acutely aware that the Bears would be profiting from the cruel misfortune of a more deserving rival.
Bristol have since Friday been celebrating winning their first piece of silverware for 37 years after beating Toulon on the Challenge Cup final, but the festivities ended when the news about Wasps filtered out on Monday.
“We absolutely believe that Wasps and Exeter should be contesting this final. They thoroughly deserve it,” said Lam, who will have to cancel his family holiday if Wasps do succumb to the virus.
“Lee has done an unbelievable job and it’s fantastic for the Premiership to see what Exeter did on Saturday in winning the Champions Cup.
“We ourselves have been put in a situation that isn’t ideal, but everything with Covid isn’t ideal, including the fact we’re waiting for the final to be played now at the end of the season we’ve had.
“We are competitors with a lot of pride. I have no doubt, 100 per cent, that it’s about flicking that switch.
“We showed last weekend that we are rugby-ready. It’s not like it’s the start of the season. We’re ready to go.
“It’s just flicking the switch from a well-deserved celebration to there’s one more game we’ve got to go for, potentially.
“We’ve started that process with boys who were just about to open some beers… and stopped. Now it’s about waiting to see what happens. We’re either going to get the thumbs-up to go on holiday or we’re in the final.”