Both of last weekend’s Challenge Cup finalists have been forced to postpone their Super League fixtures this weekend as Covid-19 outbreaks continue to wreak havoc on rugby league.
Four days after St Helens beat Castleford Tigers at Wembley both finalists have been forced to stand down from their respective fixtures against Hull Kingston Rovers and Catalans Dragons after seven or more of their 25 highest-paid players were required to isolate due to either a positive Covid test or being identified as a close contact of a positive case.
The Guardian understands that there is growing concern behind the scenes at the Rugby Football League over the prospect of completing this season, as high infection rates in the community continue to permeate into Super League squads. Fifteen fixtures have been postponed or cancelled already in 2021, with nine still waiting to be rearranged for a later date.
The Super League table is being determined on win percentage as opposed to points this season, but clubs must play at least 18 fixtures to qualify for the play-offs. There is an increasing risk that some clubs may now fail to reach that threshold, leading to doubts over the integrity of the remainder of the campaign.
Hull Kingston Rovers, who have suffered more postponements than any other side this season, have agreed to travel to Perpignan on Saturday to take on Catalans at short notice and fill the void left by Castleford after their trip to St Helens was cancelled. Leigh’s game with Warrington on Thursday has also been scrapped due to a Covid outbreak among the Warrington squad.
“The growing number of postponements, while reflecting the prevalence of Covid-19 in society, is a major concern for Rugby League as for other sports,” said Karen Moorhouse, the RFL’s chief regulatory officer. “In that context, Hull KR’s willingness to rearrange their away match against Catalans Dragons is an example of the flexibility that served the sport so well through 2020, and which may be required over the coming weeks and months.”
With many players in the competition still unvaccinated, the fear internally is that the situation may get worse. Rhodri Jones, Super League chief commercial officer, 말했다: “I would like to thank Hull KR for their willingness to accommodate a late fixture change to this week’s schedule and helping to ensure a game goes ahead in Perpignan.”