• Barbarians players handed bans for Covid-19 breach

    An independent disciplinary panel published its judgement on the hearing of 13 Barbarians players charged with Covid-19 breaches before their match against England.

    The breaches, which included misleading the investigation, led to the cancellation of the England vs Barbarians fixture scheduled for Twickenham on Sunday, 25 October.

    The match was cancelled due to concerns over the health risk to other Barbarians players and management as well as the potential risk to other teams and the integrity of the recently concluded Autumn Nations Cup tournament.

    In a statement released by the English RFU on Tuesday, the 13 players were revealed as Alex Lewington, Fergus McFadden, Juan Pablo Socino, Chris Robshaw, Richard Wigglesworth, Jackson Wray, Calum Clark, Sean Maitland, Tim Swinson, Tom de Glanville, Joel Kpoku, Manu Vunipola and Simon Kerrod.

    All 13 players accepted the charges and the independent panel has determined a range of sanctions according to the severity of the breaches. The total charges across 13 players are 85 weeks of match bans – 44 weeks suspended subject to conditions being met and 41 weeks of bans to be taken concurrently.

    Players have also been fined a total of 18.5 weeks’ salary and given a total of 630 hours of community service.  For a breakdown of the individual sanctions click here.

    According to the facts in the RFU statement, all Barbarians players read and signed a Covid Code of Conduct that stipulated they should avoid any public places, specifically bars and pubs, and were instructed not to leave the hotel unless authorised by the medical lead and Covid-19 manager.

    However, on the afternoon of 20 October, Robshaw, Wray and Wigglesworth left the hotel to go for takeaway drinks in Mayfair and while they started drinking outside, they later moved inside the pub and were joined by Lewington, Socino, McFadden and Kerrod. This was also in breach of the tier-two regulations then in place in London.

    The players admitted to the panel that they knew it was not permitted under the protocol and left the hotel through a fire escape, which is further evidenced by CCTV footage.

    The seven players had not been given permission to leave the hotel and their trip was only discovered on Friday, 23 October, two days before the game against England.

    There were further breaches on 21 October when Wray asked if the Barbarians management if the group could visit a restaurant in Mayfair, but the request was turned down as indoor restaurants were not permitted under the Code of Conduct of government tier-two protocols. Later that day, 12 players left the team hotel and went to a bar, pub and the restaurant. When asked where they had been, the players said they left the hotel to eat out at McDonald’s and sat in Berkeley Square drinking takeaways.

    Having considered all offences involving the breach of Covid-19 protocols, the visits to pubs, a bar and a restaurant were viewed by the panel as being the more serious offences.

    FULL STATEMENT

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