England-Barbarians rugby game called off after players breach Covid-19 protocols

  • England-Barbarians rugby game called off after players breach Covid-19 protocols

England-Barbarians rugby game called off after players breach Covid-19 protocols

England's autumn campaign has been rocked after Sunday's opening game against the Barbarians was called off following a breach of Covid protocols.

The RFU said in a statement: "On the evening of October 21 a number of Barbarians players breached the agreed Covid code of conduct protocol by leaving their hotel bubble without permission and without informing organisers about their whereabouts".

Chris Robshaw and his former England team-mate Richard Wigglesworth have apologised after they were expelled from the tourists' squad for leaving their Mayfair hotel to have dinner at a restaurant along with 10 others on Wednesday evening.

That left the invitational side trying to fill gaps in their squad ahead of Sunday's match at Twickenham, created to act as a warm-up for England's delayed Six Nations global away to Italy in Rome next week.

"The RFU is therefore left with no alternative but to cancel the game".

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said he is "incredibly disappointed" but that health comes first, especially with England preparing to play this autumn.

The players in question have been released by the Barbarians for safety reasons, with the famous club unable to guarantee those players would not be infectious having left the Covid-secure environment.

The RFU said it won't specify the number of players involved nor identify them until its ongoing investigation is complete.

England's 2003 World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward was left in "disbelief" at the behaviour of those concerned.

"It's just stupidity, they've been ridiculously stupid", Woodward said.

It is understood the RFU has already begun looking into the breach with a view to summoning anyone at fault before an independent disciplinary panel under the catch-all charge of bringing the game into disrepute.

"I can't believe they've been so naive and stupid to think they can get away with it. However, our priority is to protect the health and safety of the England squad and the other worldwide teams they will go up against this Autumn", RFU CEO Bill Sweeney said. These are professional players and they know what's at stake.