COVID-19 threatens French bubble
SPOTLIGHT: As the France squad prepared for the Six Nations in seclusion in Nice, the cluster of COVID-19 cases at Top 14 leaders Toulouse might have sent a shiver through the bubble.
Toulouse postponed their game Sunday against La Rochelle.
The club is again one of the biggest suppliers of players to the national squad, which has taken over a hotel in Nice since last Sunday.
Since then two players at Toulouse have tested positive and another has shown “suspicious” symptoms.
The cases appeared after Toulouse beat Agen last Saturday.
Agen have also had to cancel their match this weekend. Six players who appeared for Toulouse in the match have since joined the France squad.
La Rochelle lock Thomas Lavault had to withdraw from the France squad after testing positive.
“We are tested several times a week, so we know regularly whether a player has symptoms or not. It turns out that all the Toulouse players have tested negative, so we are continuing our process to play the Six Nations”, Bordeaux-Begles flank Cameron Woki told a video conference on Saturday.
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France originally called up 37 players and five training partners to give them 42 bodies in training sessions, but all the arrangements have been the subject of debates between the French Rugby Federation, the French authorities and the French clubs.
The squad is expected to spend eight weeks in a bubble, but will now be cut to 31 players – to limit players moving back and forth to their clubs.
Toulon wing Gabin Villiere told the press conference that the France Sevens squad was also in Nice and able “to support us”.
Montpellier lock Paul Willemse listed the precautions the squad is taking.
“We only leave the hotel for training,” he said. “We take two or three tests a week. So we really do everything we can to stay within the rules and be careful.”
The players insisted they could cope with the boredom.
“We’re not in Nice to be tourists or to visit the city,” said Woki.
“When I don’t know what to do, I play cards”, said Toulon fly-half Louis Carbonel.
France kick off their campaign against Italy in Rome on February 6.