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Edinburgh still safe to travel to Bordeaux after academy player tests positive for Covid-19

Charlie Shiel gets a big opportunity to impress in the ECC quarter-final in Bordeaux.
Charlie Shiel gets a big opportunity to impress in the ECC quarter-final in Bordeaux.

An Edinburgh Rugby academy player who tested positive for Covid-19 did not come into contact with senior squad members and therefore the team has travelled to Bordeaux as scheduled for the European Challenge Cup semi-final.

The player, who has not been named, was found to be positive for the virus under the club’s own routine testing. After a review of contacts with others at Murrayfield, three further academy players have been identified and are now self-isolating.

Edinburgh said that any potential contact by the affected player with members of the squad had been “fully reviewed” by members of the Lothian Health Protection Team and “no further action was required”.

“The club’s stringent COVID-19 protocols and mitigations provided additional medical confidence for the team to travel to France for its European Challenge Cup quarter-final tomorrow,” said a statement from the club.

“All club personnel have been advised to remain vigilant and be aware of, and report, any subsequent symptoms.”

Edinburgh will be using two coaches to and from the airports and to the game, distancing players on the flight while also restricting movement in their overnight stay in a Bordeaux hotel in this, their first trip outside Scotland and their first match away from BT Murrayfield since lockdown stalled all rugby in March.

Meanwhile Richard Cockerill has made seven changes, almost all injury-enforced, for the quarter-final from the team that lost to Ulster in the PRO14 semi-final two weeks ago.

Duhan van der Merwe, the club’s premier strike weapon, has a calf strain, while Nic Groom (also calf) WP Nel (groin) and Mark Bennett (knee) have also been stood down.

“A little bit of experience is missing, but it’s a good team, and guys like Charlie Shiel get an opportunity to start a huge game,” said the coach.

“It’s the best team we can field, I feel, for this weekend. So we go there with optimism and we’re going there to play as well as we can and try and get a result.”

Cockerill expects to see a full-grade Bordeaux side, as this is their remaining opportunity for a trophy in the 2019-20, the Top 14 season having been terminated during lockdown.

“They picked a less than full strength team last week against Brive, so I expect them to pick their best team,” he said. “When we went there for the last pool game in January it was the first time they had ever reached a European quarter-final so it was a huge game for them, I think this will be exactly the same.

“If you look at the teams that are left, Bordeaux would probably see themselves as odds-on favourites to be good enough to win the competition. I think they would have won the French championship had it continued.

“They will take it very seriously.”

The crowd will be limited to 1000 because of Covid restrictions and the temperature will be touching 30 degrees but Cockerill believes his team can be effective against the big French side.

“They’re a big team who want to play the game on their terms, so the key for us is we want to keep the ball in play more than they do,” added the coach. “We need to make sure there’s high ball in play, we control the game and play good tempo, to make sure their big boys are running about and feeling the heat as much as we are.

“We’ll back our fitness, we’ve got a good pack, a good game plan and we score tries. We have to play in the right areas of the field, get guys like Blair Kinghorn and Darcy Graham isolated against their big guys in wider channels and see if we can expose them.”

Edinburgh team: Blair Kinghorn; Darcy Graham, James Johnstone, George Taylor, Damien Hoyland; Jaco van der Walt, Charlie Shiel; Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally (capt), Simon Berghan; Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist; Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Viliame Mata.

Replacements: Mike Willemse, Rory Sutherland, Murray McCallum, Andrew Davidson, Magnus Bradbury, Nick Haining, Dan Nutton, Chris Dean.

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