Munster's season thrown into crisis after more Covid positives confirmed
10 of the travelling party will now remain in South Africa for the time being.
Munster Rugby has today confirmed nine more positive Covid-19 cases in their South Africa travelling party after PCR test results from Monday were returned.
Munster sent a party of 34 players and 14 staff members to Pretoria, last week, ahead of two United Rugby Championship games. The discovery by South African scientists of a new strain of the Covid virus, known as Omicron, in the country saw several countries impose travel bans while the four scheduled URC round six games were cancelled.
The priority was getting Munster, Cardiff, Scarlets and Zebre home, but that has been complicated by positive cases being returned in the first two squads, and backroom staff.
Munster provide testing update from Cape Town
On Monday, the plan was for most of the Munster travelling party to return home while their one [at the time] confirmed case and close contact would remain in South Africa. The PCR test results from Monday have thrown those plans into disarray. A Munster statement reads:
'Munster’s latest round of PCR testing has identified nine positive cases. The group, including staff and players, will move to the designated quarantine hotel in Cape Town joining the first player who tested positive on Sunday.
'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 10 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,' the statement concluded, 'and would like to thank families, friends, colleagues and our rugby community for the many messages of best wishes.'
Munster may have to forfeit European Cup games
As noted, above, the rest of the travelling party - although cleared by South African authorities to return home to Ireland - will first await results from their latest PCR tests before any concrete plans are made.
The health and wellbeing of all concerned, in the Munster and Cardiff travelling parties, is the priority. In European rugby circles, meanwhile, the EPCR is said to be pressing on with their plans to hold games in mid December.
Cardiff are slated to host Toulouse on December 11 while Munster are scheduled to play Wasps the following day. The Telegraph reported, on Monday, that teams that cannot fulfil their fixture obligations will forfeit the match. The opposition would be awarded a 28-0 victory and a winning bonus point.
At present, Munster academy boss Ian Costello is overseeing what is effectively a shadow squad from the province's High Performance Centre in Limerick. That squad consists of academy players and senior players that did not travel to South Africa are their time with Ireland during the Autumn Nations Series.