Update on our Champions Cup match against Bristol

Rob LloydNews

In light of speculation regarding our opening Heineken Champions Cup match against Bristol Bears, Scarlets can confirm that other than the 32 players in quarantine in Belfast, they currently have 14 fit players training at Parc y Scarlets.

Seven of those 14 players are members of the senior squad, while the other seven are on development contracts.

With the Welsh Government ruling that the squad that travelled to South Africa has to see out the full 10-day isolation period at a quarantine hotel outside of Belfast, Scarlets are urging European tournament organisers EPCR to reconsider their position on the rescheduling of matches.

Champions Cup competition regulations state that if the Scarlets were unable to fulfill their round one fixture, it would result in the game being forfeited, a 28-0 result declared and five match points allocated to Bristol.

Scarlets are due to come out of their quarantine period on Friday, December 10 – the day before the Bears game – and were we to not play any of the 32 players currently in Belfast, we would need to find nine additional players, mainly from our academy and semi-professional clubs, to field a match-day 23.

“If we were to play Bristol without the people who are in Ulster right now there are four or five positions where we physically do not have a body to fill that position,” said Scarlets Executive Chairman Simon Muderack. 

“We are not coming out of quarantine until December 10 and a lot of these boys in Belfast haven’t played a game of rugby since October 22.  EPCR has got to look at player welfare here. 

“Without the 32 players in quarantine, we’d have to play development players and academy players – some of them just out of school in their first season of senior rugby – as well as semi-pro players, who juggle their rugby commitments with full-time work and put them up against a quality side like Bristol. That wouldn’t be good for the integrity of the competition or those individuals.

“None of us had any idea that this situation was going to occur, and that South Africa was going to be put on the red list.  The URC is a new league and what we are trying to do is support the league’s aspirations by sending our very best available team to South Africa to perform as best as we can. That’s us doing the right thing by the league and rugby. 

“For us to get penalised for that really doesn’t sit very well with me and we need to find a fair solution because forfeiting the game for something that was out of our control isn’t right.

“Ideally, we would have been granted a sporting exemption which has been done in the past so that the team, whilst remaining in isolation, could have continued to train and prepare for upcoming fixtures. 

“At the moment, the best the players can do in their hotel in Belfast is exercise as individuals within the confines of their own rooms as well as being allowed a short time slot outside to walk around in the car park.

“That is no preparation for a high-intensity game of European rugby.  In our world, physical capacity is everything, if players are ‘under done’ it can be catastrophic for careers and have a direct increase to risk of injury.

“The Scarlets have a proud history in European competition and we have been looking forward to testing ourselves against two sides in Bristol and Bordeaux who have been up there among the best on the continent in recent years. It is hugely disappointing that we will not be allowed to do that on a level playing field.”