COVID-19: Another blow for England
SQUAD UPDATE: Last week’s appearance off the Northampton bench by Piers Francis has seemingly cost him his England training squad spot as the midfielder has tested positive for Covid-19.
Sale’s trip to Franklin’s Gardens assumed unprecedented levels of notoriety when it later emerged that 16 of their players and three staff members tested positive for the virus.
The major outbreak resulted in Sale’s Premiership match at home to Worcester last Sunday getting postponed until this Wednesday while Northampton were forced to forfeit their match at Gloucester, losing 20-0 off the pitch as they were unable to fulfil the fixture due to self-isolating front rows.
That situation has now had a sequel as Saints’ Francis won’t now train with England this week despite being selected by Eddie Jones in a 28-strong squad announced on Monday.
An RFU statement on Tuesday evening read: “Piers Francis (Northampton Saints) will not be part of this week’s England camp because of a positive screening test for Covid-19. Francis is following relevant isolation protocols at home in line with PHE-agreed guidelines.”
The sidelining of Francis is the latest twist in a chaotic end to the 2019/20 Premiership season. Sale, who avoided having to forfeit their game with Worcester, can still qualify next weekend’s semi-finals, but their virus outbreak has left Northampton very frustrated.
Saints CEO Mark Darbon said in an open letter to fans on Tuesday: “The decision to forfeit our final game against Gloucester on Sunday was incredibly frustrating and not the way we wanted the season to end… to lose our final fixture as a result of an outbreak at another club is extremely disappointing.”
England boss Eddie Jones had earlier revealed on Tuesday that his 28-strong squad risked reduction to 25 as three players were under scrutiny for the virus.