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Scarlets urge European chiefs to reschedule Bristol game amid quarantine chaos

Welsh outfit Scarlets are quarantining in Belfast following their departure from South Africa, and the cub has pleaded with organisers to rearrange the upcoming Champions Cup clash with Bristol

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A little more than a week before the 2021/22 Champions Cup campaign kicks off, Scarlets have appealed to organisers to reschedule their opening fixture against Premiership outfit Bristol Bears.

The Welsh club were fortunate to leave South Africa on Sunday without any positive Covid-19 cases, and they are currently quarantining in Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast.

Fellow United Rugby Championship teams Cardiff, Munster and Zebre had also travelled to South Africa before the country was added back onto the United Kingdom and European Union ‘s red list for travel.

But despite managing to depart the country in good health, Scarlets’ 10-day quarantine has left the club in a more than tricky situation as they attempt to piece together a squad for the trip to Bristol on December 11.

That’s led Scarlets to plead with European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) to rearrange their fixture in the hopes of avoiding a 28-0 defeat as forfeit.

Scarlets are currently quarantining in Belfast and don’t return to Wales until December 10
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“In light of speculation regarding our opening Heineken Champions Cup match against Bristol Bears, Scarlets can confirm that other than the 32 players in quarantine in Belfast, they currently have 14 fit players training at Parc y Scarlets,” the club said in a statement on Thursday.

“Seven of those 14 players are members of the senior squad, while the other seven are on development contracts.

“With the Welsh Government ruling that the squad that travelled to South Africa has to see out the full 10-day isolation period at a quarantine hotel outside of Belfast, Scarlets are urging European tournament organisers EPCR to reconsider their position on the rescheduling of matches.”

Cardiff and Munster are each scheduled to play Champions Cup games on the same weekend against Toulouse and Wasps, respectively.

When questioned about the prospect of postponing fixtures for teams currently subject to quarantine measures, EPCR told the Daily Mirror it was “monitoring the situation” as details emerged.

The understanding is that organisers would like fixtures to go ahead as planned, with the possibility of emergency loans touted for those squads in need.

Do you think teams affected by South Africa’s recent red-listing should have their games rescheduled? Let us know in the comment section.

Scarlets, Cardiff and Munster could see their Champions Cup campaigns end before they’ve even begun
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However, the forecast to field a squad against Bristol looks bleak for Scarlets, who would need to draft in players “from our academy and semi-professional clubs” in order to make up a matchday 23.

Executive chairman Simon Muderack said the lack of competent, professional options in certain positions has made the fixture a concern in regards to player welfare.

“If we were to play Bristol without the people who are in Ulster right now there are four or five positions where we physically do not have a body to fill that position,” said Muderack.

“We are not coming out of quarantine until December 10 and a lot of these boys in Belfast haven’t played a game of rugby since October 22. EPCR has got to look at player welfare here.

“Without the 32 players in quarantine, we’d have to play development players and academy players – some of them just out of school in their first season of senior rugby – as well as semi-pro players, who juggle their rugby commitments with full-time work and put them up against a quality side like Bristol. That wouldn’t be good for the integrity of the competition or those individuals.”

Cardiff will fly 42 members of their squad and staff out of Cape Town on Thursday before they begin a 10-day quarantine at an unspecified Covid-secure location in England.

Cardiff’s director of rugby Dai Young will be absent when his side face Toulouse on December 11
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The capital club will be without 32 first-team players for their clash with Champions Cup titleholders Toulouse but intends to play the fixture with academy members, reserves and those who didn’t travel to South Africa.

Director of rugby Dai Young will be unavailable to face French giants Toulouse due to quarantine, although Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel should be out of isolation for the trip to Bristol.

Muderack added his desire to find a “fair solution” given the absences of many first-string Scarlets players, many of whom cannot train sufficiently during their hotel quarantine in Belfast.

“The Scarlets have a proud history in European competition and we have been looking forward to testing ourselves against two sides in Bristol and Bordeaux who have been up there among the best on the continent in recent years,” he concluded.

“It is hugely disappointing that we will not be allowed to do that on a level playing field.”

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