England-Barbarians game off; Gilbert extends with Premiership
The England rugby union team’s game against the Barbarians, the popular invitational side, at Twickenham stadium in London on Sunday, has been cancelled.
England’s Rugby Football Union took the decision this afternoon after it emerged that 12 Barbarians players, including former national team captain Chris Robshaw, had breached Covid-19 restrictions in leaving the hotel bubble in London for dinner on Wednesday evening.
The governing body said that it had also been investigating an earlier undisclosed breach on Tuesday.
The Quilter Cup fixture was intended to serve as preparation for England's delayed Six Nations game in Italy on 31 October, and the subsequent Autumn Nations Cup.
This weekend’s match was due to have been played behind closed doors, with live coverage in the UK on pay-television operator Sky, and it is thought that the cancellation could cost the RFU £1 million ($1.3 million) in lost revenue.
RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said: “We are incredibly disappointed to be calling a halt to this fixture, we know how much fans were looking forward to seeing the teams play. However, our priority is to protect the health and safety of the England squad and the other international teams they will go up against this autumn.”
Meanwhile, England's top-tier Premiership Rugby has extended its partnership with ball manufacturer Gilbert.
The agreement means that Gilbert balls will be used for a 24th consecutive season in 2020-21, for matches in both the Gallagher Premiership and Premiership Rugby Cup.
The UK brand is the established official ball of the Rugby World Cup, in an agreement that has already been extended to the 2023 tournament in France, and last week prolonged its partnership with the RFU, which dates back to 2002, in a multi-year deal.
The Covid-delayed 2019-20 Premiership season culminates with the final between Exeter Chiefs and Wasps at Twickenham tomorrow.
The game will be shown live in the UK by subscription broadcaster BT Sport, with highlights on free-to-air commercial network Channel 5.