Munster confirm nine further positive Covid cases in South Africa party

Province remain stranded in Cape Town and waiting for green light to return to Ireland

Munster have confirmed nine further cases of Covid-19 after the latest round of PCR testing in South Africa. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Munster have confirmed nine further cases of Covid-19 after the latest round of PCR testing in South Africa. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

 

Munster have been hit by another nine new positive cases of Covid-19 among their travelling party of 48 who are currently placed in isolation at a hotel in Cape Town.

The province confirmed the news after their latest round of PCR testing identified the nine additional positive cases, which includes both members of staff and players. That group will move to the designated quarantine hotel in Cape Town where the first player who tested positive on Sunday has been isolating separately.

“The remaining party of 38 have all returned negative results and continue to individually isolate in their rooms where they have been based since Sunday night.

“As outlined by the Irish government on Monday, those that have received negative results have clearance to travel from the South African authorities.

“In taking every precaution the touring party have completed another round of PCR testing this morning, the third in less that 60 hours, and will wait on results ahead of next steps.

“The ten members of the group who have tested positive will remain in Cape Town until the end of their isolation period. While the individuals were disappointed on receiving the news they are thankfully well and will continue to be monitored medically at this time.

“We understand this is a challenging situation and would like to thank families, friends, colleagues and our rugby community for the many messages of best wishes.”

In what first and foremost must be a distressing development for the party and their families, the statement made no mention of close contacts, and all of the travelling party of 48, including 34 players, had been isolating in their own rooms since Sunday.

Munster had been hoping to fly the players and staff by private charter to Dublin on Tuesday or Wednesday, after plans to do so last Sunday had to be abandoned following that one positive test.

But their statement appeared to hold out the hope of the remaining party of 38 still being able to fly home in the next two or three days, with a view to completing a requisite isolation period in Ireland, in time for their opening Champions Cup game away to Wasps on Sunday week, December 12th, in Coventry.

It remains Munster’s intention, and that of tournament organisers EPCR, to proceed with that game, and their ensuing tie at home to Castres six days later, which will be the province’s first European match with a crowd at Thomond Park since they beat the Ospreys in January of last year.

To that end, the province have stated that Academy Manager Ian Costello and his staff are overseeing the training sessions for the Academy group and eight internationals who were not brought to South Africa at their HPC in the University of Limerick.

However, of their 58 players who are registered with the tournament organisers, there are believed to be only 19 fit players training in Limerick. Seven of those are Irish internationals who were involved in the Autumn Series, as well as Springboks’ centre Damian de Allende, and another eight are members of their Academy.

Among the 10 forwards training in Limerick, there are two uncapped hookers, Declan Moore and academy hooker Scott Buckley, just three props, including academy player Mark Donnelly, and two academy locks, Paddy Kelly and Eoin O’Connor, along with Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony and academy backrower Daniel Okeke.

Hence, in order to fulfill the Wasps fixture, and the Castres game as well, Munster would need those based in South Africa to be available for that game.

Otherwise, Munster would need special dispensation from EPCR (effectively therefore approval from the Ligue National de Rugby and Premiership Rugby) to supplement their squad with AIL players and/or players loaned from other provinces.

There is practically no scope for postponing and rearranging either or both of the games against Wasps and Castres, and tournament rules stipulate that if a club is unable to fulfil a fixture they forfeit the match, with a bonus point, 28-0 win awarded to the visitors.

That precedent was set last season in four round two games and also the last-16 tie between Leinster and Toulon at the RDS, when the three-time winners returned to France livid at that outcome after travelling to Dublin.

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