Premiership Rugby outlaws try celebrations in move to curb Covid-19 spread

Try celebrations were last night banned by Premiership Rugby chiefs in a dramatic move to curb the spread of coronavirus.

A raft of new stricter measures were brought in after Saturday’s East Midlands derby between Northampton and Leicester became the fifth English top-flight match of the season to be cancelled, due to an outbreak at Saints.

The league’s tightened protocols at training grounds are to include a ban on ice baths, a requirement that face masks are worn at all times within buildings and that food is available only on a take away basis.

‘Face-to-face’ try celebrations, along with hugs and handshakes are outlawed from matches and ‘non-playing’ players are no longer permitted to attend unless nominated as a travelling reserve.

Rugby union, which shutdown completely between March and August, is battling to keep afloat through this second wave.

As the virus tightens its grip, double-winning Exeter boss Rob Baxter admitted that any achievement beyond simply getting through the season in one piece will be a “bonus”.

Baxter, whose Chiefs team forfeited a European Cup match last month after an outbreak in their ranks, believes regular testing in English rugby’s top flight makes it “relatively safe”.

But he admitted: “If we get through this season okay and unscathed – by which I mean with no health issues among the people we know and in the club – we’ve done a pretty good job.

“And anything you can get out of it positively on the rugby field is more than a bonus really.”

Montpellier owner Mohed Altrad has called for the plug to be pulled on the Champions Cup, which thus far has seen four cancellations including holders Exeter’s clash at Toulouse.

In the Challenge Cup, which has seen two games scrubbed, Bayonne are currently refusing to fulfil their remaining fixtures.

The Lions tour to South Africa is in grave doubt, although there is talk of switching it to the UK and Ireland if, as increasingly seems inevitable, Covid prevents fans from travelling.

“Do I understand why people have their concerns and their worries? 100 per cent,” said Baxter. “The reason we are in the scenario we are in, that should give a concern.

“But we’ve been cleared as professional sport to carry on, so that’s what we’ve got to do.

“We’re in such a climate of change at the moment it’s just about focusing on yourself and what you’re doing and how you try and get yourselves through things as a rugby club. The only thing you’re in control of is what you do.”

The Premiership’s latest Covid test results are due today. Exeter organised an additional round of testing after recording “some” positives.

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