Premiership Rugby reviewing 'every single minute of every day'

By Chris JonesBBC rugby union correspondent
Sale Sharks
Sale Sharks' game against Worcester Warriors was due to take place at AJ Bell Stadium

Premiership Rugby is reviewing its processes "every single minute of every day" as it deals with a "season like no other".

The governing body was criticised for its handling of the situation at Sale, where a Covid-19 outbreak forced their game against Worcester to be cancelled.

But chief executive Darren Childs insists the restart has been a success.

"The rugby has been great, and it's allowed us to fulfil quite a lot of our obligations," he told BBC Sport.

"When you factor in the bad news that we can't get crowds back in in October, the TV side of things is going to keep these clubs alive.

"But you start off on these journeys not knowing when - or how - they are going to end.

"This project is being reviewed every single minute of every day. We are dealing with something people are trying to get their arms around and understand.

"This is a season like no other. We have had to layer a whole bunch of new advisers on top of the normal people that work in rugby and work in sport, and that is going to be our world going forward."

After 19 positive cases at Sale last Friday, the Sharks' home fixture with Worcester was rearranged from Sunday to Wednesday on the advice of local health authorities, with a decision to cancel only taken on Wednesday morning after a further eight positive tests.

The Rugby Football Union is investigating the situation, citing "concerns" with how the process has been managed.

But Phil Winstanley, the league's rugby director, defended his organisation's approach and sought to explain why the Sale game was not called off earlier, saying it was not possible under the current regulations.

"Sale completed their contact tracing process, isolated the players who were positive, isolated their close contacts, and still had 23 fit players who had tested negative," he said.

"The problems we then had is that the regulations - and they are RFU regulations too - didn't give Premiership Rugby or the RFU the ability to cancel the game.

"None of us had envisaged circumstances where we would cancel a game that theoretically could be played.

"We expected the local public health director to say straight away that there is a breakout of Covid - because under government regulations, two cases is a cluster and more than two is a breakout - and therefore we are going to stop the game.

"But they said: Why not postpone until Wednesday? So we had a situation where we had concerns, but [the health authorities] hadn't cancelled the game and Sale wanted to play, so we took the opportunity to postpone and give ourselves 72 hours to create the safest environment.

"Obviously it's created a few challenges from a PR perspective, but these decisions involved the RFU, the Players' Association, and ourselves."

Childs added that the authorities are still trying to find an explanation for the huge outbreak at Sale, which caused the cancellation of two matches in the final round after eight rounds were completed in full following the restart.

"We don't know what this outbreak has been caused by," he said.

"We don't know if it's an increase in prevalence in the geographical area, or whether it's something that has gone on at the club.

"We have all heard the rumours, but they are rumours without a single scrap of evidence that we have seen. This could easily be unlucky, from a local spike up in Manchester.

"We are trying to find out, because this is about the whole sport working together to make it safe to continue, and that's our objective."