An outbreak of Covid cases amongst European Champions Exeter Chiefs has dented their hopes of retaining their crown after being handed defeat for failing to fulfil their fixture at Toulouse.
Chiefs, who have made a sensational start to their campaign in winning their three Premiership games by an average of 30 points and hammered Glasgow 42-0 in their opening European Champions Cup match, will be faced with a 28-0 ‘defeat’ whilst Toulouse are handed the bonus point victory.
The double winners from last season had minimal rest or training since winning those titles in comparison to their opponents, but have started the season more strongly than ever before having faced almost no threat of losing from their four opponents in all competitions this season.
Many were looking forward to their clash with Toulouse, who sit second in France’s Top 14 League, but Exeter now face a real test to qualify in an amended Champions Cup format which sees larger groups wih defeats proving far more costly to qualification hopes than in a typical year.
Whilst their thumping margin of victory over Glasgow, who themselves now have no chance of progressing after they too were handed a 28-0 loss having come into close contact with the Exeter players in that game, has given them hope of having a competitive points difference, they will likely need bonus point victories in their remaining games to secure a place in the knockout stages.
Alongside Glasgow and Exeter, Bath have also been given a 28-0 defeat which puts pay to their chances of progressing, with 12 of their team self-isolating after coming into contact with a Scarlets player who tested positive in the Llanelli-based side’s trip to the Rec.
Bizarrely, Scarlets were cleared to play against Toulon last weekend having withdrawn the player and close contacts from training, but the Provence outfit were not satisfied that the game did not pose a risk to their players and it was them who were handed defeat.
It means four games have been unable to go ahead in the first Covid-19-related postponements to affect English Rugby since the start of the 2020/21 season.