Saracens’ hopes of reaching the knock-out stages of the Heineken Challenge Cup have taken a serious blow after forfeiting this weekend’s round two clash away to Pau.
The club announced on Wednesday that it returned a “significant number of positive tests for Covid-19” within the playing squad and said that it was not in a position to fulfil its second round fixture on Saturday.
As a result, the European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) body has awarded Pau a 28-0 victory and the five match points in accordance with the tournament rules.
It comes just a day after both Leinster and Montpellier revealed positive cases in their camps ahead of this weekend’s Champions Cup match.
The default is a severe blow to Saracens’ European hopes as they are now without a victory in the opening two rounds following defeat at home to Edinburgh last weekend.
Saracens is not the first team to suffer a default this season, and may not be the last either. On the opening weekend, Scarlets had to forfeit their first match against Bristol, while Cardiff and Leinster have been forced to dip into their wider squad in order to meet the required matchday squad numbers.
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Due to an outbreak of COVID-19 it is with regret that our game versus Section Paloise on Saturday has had to be forfeited.
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— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) December 15, 2021
In a statement, Saracens said that all members of the squad was self isolating, including coaches, support staff and players.
“We have been working closely with EPCR and PRL and it is with regret that our game versus Section Paloise in the EPCR Challenge Cup on Saturday 18th December has had to be forfeited by Saracens due to our inability to field a 23 man squad for this fixture.
“In addition to positive Covid-19 cases we have players self-isolating due to being close contacts and a number of players who are currently injured. The need to forfeit the fixture will result in a 28-0 loss to Pau, and five match points to Pau as set out in the EPCR tournament rules. This is extremely disappointing for everyone at the club but as always the health and wellbeing of our people is our priority at this time.
“The squad will return to full training on 24th December following the necessary period of isolation. We would like to reassure our supporters that our Gallagher Premiership fixture versus Worcester Warriors on 26thDecember will still take place and we very much look forward to seeing you all at StoneX Stadium for a feast of festive rugby.”