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Barbarians' COVID-19 breach puts England game in doubt

The RFU said an unspecified number of players left the team hotel without permission or informing organisers of their whereabouts on Wednesday.

England players during a training session on 22 October 2020. Picture: @EnglandRugby/Twitter

LONDON - England's match against the Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday could be called off following a breach of coronavirus protocols by the invitational side, the Rugby Football Union announced Thursday.

"The RFU is reviewing if the Quilter Cup England v Barbarians fixture scheduled for Sunday 25 October can still go ahead," said a statement from English rugby union's governing body.

The RFU said an unspecified number of players left the team hotel without permission or informing organisers of their whereabouts on Wednesday.

"On their return, the players were immediately separated from the rest of the group in the bubble in order to protect its integrity," the statement explained.

By leaving their COVID-19 secure environment, the players concerned had risked a potential transmission of the virus from individuals outside the bubble.

The RFU said that even with a further round of testing for this group it will not be possible to guarantee that these players are not infectious in the period up to and including the match.

As a result those players - the statement did not specify how many had been involved - were ruled out of Sunday's fixture and sent away from the squad.

An update on whether the match can go ahead will be announced by 3:00 pm (1400 GMT) on Friday.

The RFU said that "if sufficient new players with an appropriate testing history and who have been meeting the code of conduct standards can be brought into the Barbarians camp then the game will go ahead".

The match was scheduled as a warm-up fixture for England's delayed Six Nations finale away to Italy next weekend but the RFU said "it will not compromise the safety of players to do so".

The statement added: "Barbarian F.C. have expressed their extreme disappointment in the conduct of the players involved and have taken all necessary steps to ensure the safety of the players and staff within the bubble."

Meanwhile, officials said "no details on the individuals who will be in or out of the revised Barbarians squad will be announced until the fixture is re-confirmed".

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