Premiership Rugby has postponed Sale’s vital clash with Worcester until Wednesday after 16 Sale players tested positive for coronavirus.
With one game of the regular season to go, Sale sit fourth in the table but ahead of Bristol only on points difference.
Should they have forfeited the match, which was due to take place on Sunday, a 20-0 win would have been awarded to Worcester and Sale would likely miss out on the end-of-season playoffs between the top four.
“Following the announcement yesterday that there had been a number of positive tests at Sale Sharks, as part of the League’s CR COVID-19 screening programme, Premiership Rugby has made the decision under Premiership Regulation 4.1 (c) to postpone the Sale Sharks v Worcester Warriors fixture until Wednesday 7 October,” Premiership Rugby said in a statement.
“This decision has been made after consultation with Sale Sharks, Worcester Warriors and Public Health England to ensure that the health and wellbeing of all players is protected whilst protecting the integrity of the competition.”
Before the match can go ahead, another round of testing will take place on Sale players and an independent audit the club’s track and trace processes will be conducted.
Darren Childs, Chief Executive at Premiership Rugby said: “Our priority is the health and well-being of everyone involved, and we won’t compromise this. But as this match has such a critical bearing on deciding the Gallagher Premiership Rugby champions, we wanted to do everything we could to play it.”
Worcester said in a statement earlier on Saturday that they will only agree to the match going ahead if their players and staff are not exposed to any risk.
“The sole criterion for deciding whether a match can take place in the current unprecedented and worrying circumstances is the safety of officials and players and staff of both clubs and the risk of anyone contracting and spreading this killer disease.
“Warriors would always prefer the outcome of a match to be decided on the pitch and will do so provided we are satisfied that all the Covid-19 protocols and procedures have been followed and no health risk is posed to our players and staff.”
The five other matches from the final round of fixtures will go ahead on Saturday as planned, including Northampton’s visit to Gloucester.
Sale had beaten Northampton on Tuesday, just three days before the spate of positive tests were revealed.
© Agence France-Presse by Kieran CANNING