The United Rugby Championship (URC) have issued a statement in which they say they are “committed to the competition’s format” and to playing all postponed matches despite going through a tough week which saw four of its European teams stranded in South Africa.
Cardiff, Munster, the Scarlets and Zebre Parma were scheduled to play two rounds of fixtures in South Africa but the discovery of the Omicron Covid-19 variant saw that country put back on the UK government’s travel red list and those scheduled matches were postponed.
The URC statement read: “Since information was released regarding the new Covid-19 variant, the United Rugby Championship has sought to act swiftly in the best interests of player welfare which led to the immediate postponements of the Round 6 & 7 cross-hemisphere fixtures last week.
“The league can now confirm that travelling parties from Cardiff, Munster, Scarlets and Zebre Parma are now all back in Europe. Only a group from Cardiff and Munster, who had positive PCR test results, remain in South Africa and are under the continued great care of our colleagues from SA Rugby.
Working behind the scenes
“In the past week the URC has worked with the relevant government departments of the travelling teams to repatriate players and staff. The focus now continues to be placed on supporting the players and staff in various locations who are quarantining.
“In this very challenging situation the league would like to acknowledge the heartfelt support from the many government departments, fellow URC teams and the wider rugby community, including SA Rugby, the South African players association (MyPlayers), the league’s shareholders and clubs, commercial partners and other people who reached out to offer assistance.
“After a successful beginning to the inaugural URC campaign, the league remains committed to the format and ensuring all games are played. Work has already begun on rescheduling the games postponed in R6 and R7 but it must be made clear that the welfare of our teams and players must come first.”