Bristol will consider placing their players in a Covid-secure bubble for two weeks if they defeat Wasps in Saturday’s Premiership play-off semi-final, with their director of rugby, Pat Lam, saying everyone at the club is on high alert after Sale recorded 27 positive tests in five days.
The Bears play Toulon in next Friday’s European Challenge Cup final in Aix-en-Provence with the Premiership final following eight days later at Twickenham. Lam says he has become so nervous about the twice-weekly tests conducted on players since the season’s restart that he wakes up at 4am on the day of the results.
“I tell our Covid manager to send them through to me no matter what the time is,” said Lam. “They are usually through by 5.30am. We laid it out to the players from the start that we had to take every precaution possible. Just as no one wants to be the one who makes a crucial mistake in a final, so in this climate no one wants to be the person who costs the team the chance of a trophy by making the wrong decision.
“If that is what it takes, staying two weeks in a hotel could be an option, especially as the risk in society from Covid grows. Everyone is on high alert about who they are mixing with and the decisions they are taking.”
Bristol have prepared for the Wasps match all week, even though the fixture was only confirmed on Wednesday morning after Sale’s match against Worcester was cancelled, ensuring the top four would be unchanged. “It was the common-sense decision,” said Lam. “The safety, health and wellbeing of players and their facilities are what is most important.”
If Bath win at Exeter on Saturday, they will have a week off before the Premiership final but their director of rugby, Stuart Hooper, has no plans to create a bubble for his team.
“Our players are incredibly responsible guys,” said Hooper. “They are not kids and I would not try to trap them in a building so they cannot go out. They understand the risks and drive standards.
“They are doing everything they can to get to Twickenham and the first job is beating Exeter. Everything in between is their preparation as professionals and part of that is steering clear of any potential risks with Covid.”
Bath’s captain, Charlie Ewels, said the players had devised a system to ensure no one took risks. “We talked about the costs of someone picking up the virus and spreading it. Our rule is would you be willing to stand up in front of the group after testing positive if you had picked it up in a supermarket? Yes. But what if it was a case of being on a night out with a bunch of mates? Would you want to explain that?”