Cardiff committed to completing Champions Cup fixtures

Planet Rugby

Cardiff boss Dai Young insists that they will do all they can to fulfil their upcoming Champions Cup fixtures.

The Welsh region are due to face Toulouse in a week-and-a-half’s time before they take on Harlequins in their second European match.

After being stuck in South Africa, Cardiff have confirmed that 42 players and staff are set to leave Cape Town on Thursday having returned negative coronavirus tests.

A 10-day period of quarantine on arrival in the United Kingdom means that the 28 players and 14 staff members leaving South Africa can play no part in the European fixtures.

Young’s team host European champions Toulouse on December 11, then visit Premiership winners Quins seven days later.

Face forfeiting the matches

Teams who are unable to fulfil European Cup fixtures face forfeiting the game under strict tournament rules, and it is understood that competition organisers currently have no plans to postpone games.

Such a stance, though, drew criticism last season after a handful of coronavirus-related cancellations saw clubs responsible handed 28-0 defeats.

“Anyone from this trip will be ineligible to face Toulouse and Quins, but we have got a number of internationals back home and we will do everything in our power to honour these fixtures,” Young told Cardiff’s official website.

“The team will be made up of the internationals who haven’t come with us and some of our best academy players.

“I am confident they will do the jersey proud, but we need the Cardiff support to get right behind us.

“Gruff Rees will lead the team and he will be assisted by Thomas Rhys Thomas and Richie Rees, who remained in Cardiff to coach those not travelling.

“I know they and the boys will want to do it for the boys in quarantine. We will be watching from our rooms, and it will be a real boost if we see a packed Arms Park.

“They will be supporting the boys, those of us in isolation and the club during what has been the most stressful and challenging period I have experienced as a director of rugby.”

Six Cardiff players involved in the Autumn Nations Series with Wales – Josh Adams, Uilisi Halaholo, Tomos Williams, Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies and Ellis Jenkins – did not travel to South Africa.

On Cardiff’s more general situation in South Africa, Young added: “What sits really uncomfortably with me, and the biggest thing that upsets me, is going home and leaving people out here. As a director of rugby that is the biggest thing I am struggling to cope with.

“If it was an injury, one or two of us would definitely stay out here, but we are not actually allowed to do that in these circumstances.

“But they are in really good hands, the doctor is checking on them twice a day and all the medical things are in place if there were any issues, which there are not.

“Thankfully, all the guys staying behind remain in good spirits and any symptoms they have are mild.”

The bulk of Munster’s playing and backroom staff, meanwhile, are on their way back from South Africa.

The Irish provincial team were stranded in Cape Town following the cancellation of their scheduled cross-hemisphere matches in the United Rugby Championship due to the discovery of a new coronavirus variant.

Fresh travel restrictions were imposed on South Africa, and Munster and Cardiff had hoped to join the Scarlets and Zebre Parma in leaving on Sunday aboard a charter flight before positive cases caused a hold-up.

Despite announcing on Tuesday night that a further four members of the touring party had tested positive – adding to the 10 already confirmed – Munster said 34 players and staff left Cape Town after receiving negative results from a fourth round of PCR testing in six days.

Munster are due to face European Cup opponents Wasps on December 12, while Scarlets’ travelling group from South Africa is currently isolating at a Belfast hotel. Their scheduled European opener is against Bristol on December 11.

Duane Vermeulen tests positive for Covid-19

Ulster have announced that new recruit Springboks number eight Duane Vermeulen has returned a positive Covid-19 test.

The 35-year-old, who was part of South Africa’s victorious squad at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan has signed a contract with the Northern Irish province until 2023.

Vermeulen started at number eight for the Boks during their recent Autumn Nations Series Tests against Wales, Scotland and England.

He was also named in the Barbarians team scheduled to face Samoa at Twickenham last weekend, but that game was cancelled 90 minutes before kick-off following positive Covid tests in the Baa-baas camp.