England match off after COVID-19 breaches

Chris Robshaw was among those whose COVID-19 rule breach caused the England match cancellation.
Chris Robshaw was among those whose COVID-19 rule breach caused the England match cancellation.

England's match against the Barbarians has been cancelled due to a breach in coronavirus protocols by Barbarians players, including a very contrite former England captain Chris Robshaw.

On another day when COVID-19 continued to play havoc with worldwide sport, Crystal Palace's England goalkeeper Jack Butland became the latest big name to test positive for COVID-19.

The seasoned rugby union internationals Robshaw, England's Richard Wigglesworth and Scotland's Sean Maitland were among a contingent of 12 who left the Barbarians team hotel in central London on Wednesday night in order to have dinner.

The Barbarians were scrambling to fill the gaps in their squad before a deadline of 3pm on Friday set by the Rugby Football Union (RFU), who are investigating the breach with a view to summoning any transgressors before an independent disciplinary hearing.

An RFU investigation found that a number of Barbarians players left their hotel on Tuesday and Wednesday without permission and without informing organisers about their whereabouts.

The players who left Tuesday did not isolate themselves upon returning, which "resulted in the bubble environment being compromised," the RFU said, citing risks to other players, coaches and staff.

"The RFU is therefore left with no alternative but to cancel the game."

Robshaw wrote on Twitter: "I want to express my deepest apologies ... A huge effort went into conducting this match in a safe fashion and it was irresponsible of me to break the protocols which are put in place to protect players, staff and the public.

"I understand that my actions have ultimately contributed to the cancellation of Sunday's match and I am sincerely remorseful for my role in undoing all the amazing work that went into trying to make it happen.

"I promise that I will learn from this mistake and ensure something like this never happens again."

The RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said he was "incredibly disappointed" but that health came first, especially with England preparing to play this autumn.

Palace's goalkeeper Butland's positive test was revealed by manager Roy Hodgson, who said that the 27-year-old England international, a deadline day signing from Stoke, would miss this weekend's Premier League match at Fulham.

"The good news is he's feeling good, but disappointed that all he's seeing is four walls and nothing else at the moment," added Hodgson.

Borussia Dortmund defender Emre Can has been ruled out of Saturday's Ruhr derby against Schalke after testing positive for the coronavirus, while Serge Gnabry remains sidelined for Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich for the match against Eintracht Frankfurt after a positive test earlier in the week.

St Mirren's Scottish Premiership game against visitors Hamilton Academical has been postponed because the hosts do not have enough fit players due to COVID-19 cases.

Australian Associated Press