Gallagher Premiership rugby ‘integrity’ called into question but disaster lurks in shadows

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Worcester Warriors boss Alan Solomons has claimed that the competitive integrity of the Gallagher Premiership has been affected by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. A number of matches have already been cancelled this season due to players testing positive, with this weekend’s clash between Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers the latest fixture to be claimed by the virus.

Five games have now been called off in just three rounds of Premiership action, with Worcester’s meeting with Harlequins at Sixways and the derby between Northampton and London Irish both cancelled last time out.

The current procedure after a match is axed has proved to be controversial among the sport’s fanbase.

Sides that forfeit due to Covid-19 are given two points while their would-be opponents are awarded four.

Solomons, who has held the position of director of rugby at Worcester since 2017, has suggested that the system is harming the competitive nature of England’s top flight.

However, he conceded that there appears to be no perfect way to solve the issue, with a number of clubs potentially facing significant financial difficulties if the season is postponed.

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“We are operating in very difficult times,” Solomons told Worcester News. “We are all doing our best to keep going because if we don’t, commercially, it will be a disaster for the game.

“I think we have to bear with the situation, but of course it’s not perfect because if it were, every team would play and the points would be allocated as a result of the game. That has not been the case in some instances in recent weeks.

“Through no one’s fault, this is obviously affecting the integrity of the competition because the games aren’t being played but everyone is trying to find an equitable solution.

“I think the main thing for us is to keep the games going, it’s absolutely vital.”

Defending champions Exeter Chiefs currently lead the way at the top of the Premiership table, level on points with second-placed Bristol Bears.

The two sides will face off on Saturday, with Exeter coach Rob Baxter revealing that his players have been subjected to extra testing with the aim of ensuring the match is played.

The Devon club are still recovering from an outbreak that swept through their ranks before Christmas.

“We are one of these clubs which feel a responsibility to get on top of anything really quickly, and certainly not risk players going onto the field against opposition with any doubt about whether they are positive for Covid,” Baxter told Devon Live.

“We are certainly going to have another round of testing to make sure nobody has slipped through the net or become viral later in the week, so we can take the field with 100 percent confidence [that] we are not risking transmitting anything to Bristol.

“At this stage I am very confident the game will go ahead, but experience with Covid tells me things can change. At this stage we have done everything right.”

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