Scotland’s Guinness Six Nations game against France in Paris may not be played until July after a further positive test for Covid-19 at the French camp at Marcoussis near Paris forced the postponement of Sunday’s game.
After 48 hours without a positive test for the coronavirus, and a day after the squad had resumed contact training, an unnamed French squad member tested positive. It was the 12th positive among the playing squad in the last two weeks.
So less than 24 hours after they had given the green light for the game to be played at the Stade de France on Sunday, the Six Nations’ Testing Oversight Group reconvened and postponed the game.
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 25, 2021
The next free international window where the game could be played without club calls is the first week in July.
“We will be working on the rescheduling of this fixture and communicate the date in due course,” read a statement for the championship’s council.
Latest test rules out next week as new date
The result of this latest positive test seems certain to have ruled out an original plan to play any postponed game next week, the second by week of the championship schedule. There is now a requirement to isolate almost the entire remaining French squad after a positive test within their number.
All previous positive tests were found either prior to or on arrival at the Marcoussis training centre before players had been exposed to other squad members. The squad had undertaken a contact session on Wednesday at which the infected player took part.
Scots ‘fully accepted the decision’ says Townsend
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend said while the squad “fully accepted the decision” to postpone the game, they were disappointed not to be able to play.
“We have had a good week with our players who were focused and ready to represent their country in Paris and continue our progress in this year’s Guinness Six Nations,” he said.
“Throughout this tournament, and the previous Autumn Nations Cup, we have worked hard to maintain strict Covid-19 protocols which have enabled us to select our strongest possible teams for these important international fixtures.
“We will wait to see what options are available to play this match against France, but it remains our position that we want to have all our eligible players available to us for that fixture, so we can compete to the level we would have done this weekend.
“We wish all the French players and staff affected by Covid-19 well in their recovery and look forward to playing them at a future date.”
Scotland determined not to be disadvantaged
Scotland have taken a strident position that the game should be played when World Rugby’s Regulation 9 protocols for player release from their clubs is in effect.
The Scots stand to lose 10 to 12 players from their squad – including captain Stuart Hogg – as they play for Premiership clubs in England if the game is played outside release protocols.
The next free week under Regulation 9 is not until early July, which is also the date for the first scheduled provincial game of the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa.
Given that game is unlikely to take place – the Lions’ test matches against South Africa may yet be salvaged by being played in the UK and Ireland or in Australia – it would present the first opportunity for full-strength teams to be selected.
The Six Nations is thought to be considering playing the postponed game on a Wednesday during the remaining fortnight of the Six Nations window. That would however provoke serious concerns about player welfare.