34 Munster Rugby players and members of staff left Cape Town last night and are expected to arrive in Ireland later this evening.
A further four positive cases of Covid were detected in the fourth round of PCR testing undertaken by the team in their isolation hotel meaning that 14 of the party in total are still in South Africa and will be until their isolation period has ended.
“This is a difficult time for all players and staff involved and we are very mindful of their wellbeing and the understandable concern from family and friends at home,” said a Munster Rugby statement issued last night.
“The group will be well looked after with team liaisons Warren Morris and Kubaan Lorens remaining on-site with medical support provided daily.”
“Munster Rugby would like to say a huge thank you to the management and staff at Southern Sun The Cullinan Hotel for all their help and efforts over the last few days, especially at a time when last-minute support and requirements were needed for a large group. The contribution Warren and Kubaan made during this time cannot be overstated and we are indebted to the duo for their professionalism and support.”
“Again, we wish to take this opportunity to thank the Irish government, the IRFU, South Africa Rugby, URC, and the health authorities for their assistance in particular with regards to facilitating the safe return of our staff and players.”
The players will now isolate at their homes for ten days on arrival back in Ireland and if no more positive tests emerge from the group, would be clear to play the opening round of the Heineken Champions Cup against Wasps in Coventry on Sunday, December 12th.
Travelling into England will also require a negative test as will the return to Ireland though how that will work for short-stay trips, and whether one test result will suffice if both journeys are made within the 48-hour window is not yet clear.
The players will also have to contend with the physical tailing off of being isolated away from pre-match training and the mental strain that will have impacted on themselves and their families while they were stranded halfway around the world.
They are young and resilient but it is asking a lot.
If it is decided that the returning players are not ready to travel again, then Munster will be left with only 18 fit registered players, one less than is permitted in the competition rules to make up a matchday squad.
That though is a technical issue, and the main job of getting home is now thankfully underway.
Sport for Business Perspective
Elite sport is about the one per cent margins in performance. This will have taken a lot more off the edge of Munster players, and those of Cardiff, who have been through a tough few days and deserve the time to settle before being asked to give of their all again. The integrity of the competition and the wider impact on a very tight competition schedule most likely demand that the games are played, but dispensation should be granted to bring in replacements to the named players.
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Sport for Business Partners