Barbarians' Covid breach a 'reminder of responsibilities' says England's Ben Earl after fixture cancellation

Will Macpherson
·3 min read
Taking precautions: Ben Earl says England's players are managing well with the new Covid-19 protcols in camp (Getty Images)
Taking precautions: Ben Earl says England's players are managing well with the new Covid-19 protcols in camp (Getty Images)

Ben Earl says the Barbarians’ breach of Covid-19 protocol – which led to the cancellation of the teams’ fixture on Sunday – has provided a stark reminder to the England squad of the need to stay in line this autumn.

More than a dozen Barbarians players – including former England captain Chris Robshaw – face RFU censure for going to pubs and an Italian restaurant near their Mayfair base without permission last week, compromising the bio-security of the fixture, which was cancelled 48 hours before kick-off.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed on Tuesday that it would not be investigating the Covid breaches, despite video appearing to show the players breaching London’s Tier 2 status.

A Met statement read: “The Met will not investigate COVID breaches retrospectively unless they are the most dangerous and flagrant breaches of the regulations. The Met is not investigating this incident.”

Earl said that the situation had reminded England’s players, who are in a bubble at the Lensbury Hotel in Teddington, of their responsibilities. The cancellation cost the RFU a seven-figure sum, and rugby is the only recreational sport yet to return after the pandemic-enforced hiatus.

“It’s a reminder of our responsibility not only to the RFU which has been fantastic to us in terms of getting rugby back to us, but also in terms of our responsibility to the community and the game itself,” said Earl, the 22-year-old who is on loan with Bristol from Saracens.

“Rugby needs us to perform well, to play well and to do that we’ve got to be able to get out onto the pitch. There’s a responsibility there on our behalf to prepare well and be as professional as we can, and now the new norm that we talk about, Covid, is always in the back of our minds in how we prepare."

Earl said life in camp had been “very manageable” with the new protocols.

“It’s been different but it’s got the same feel about it,” he said. “There’s not actually too much that’s changed, obviously a few Covid rules in terms of our distancing, hand washing and hygiene, like wiping down equipment.

England coach Eddie Jones has appeared unfazed by the cancellation of his team's Quilter Cup contest against the BarbariansGetty Images
England coach Eddie Jones has appeared unfazed by the cancellation of his team's Quilter Cup contest against the BarbariansGetty Images

"But it’s been brilliant, the RFU have been brilliant in what they’ve been putting on and I think by and large everyone’s really enjoying it. We’re getting a bit more time to spend together as a squad, it’s kind of forced upon you because you can’t just sit on your own in your room the whole time.

"It’s been really good in that regard and we’ve got an amazing set-up, so so far so good.

“I think it’s something you live with. If you’re paranoid the whole time it’s probably not something you can enjoy as much. We’re just trying to enjoy each other’s company as much as we can, obviously with that there has to be a sense of responsibility and some maturity with that.

"I don’t think anyone’s ever washed their hands as much as they have this week, but we’re very much aware in terms of what’s expected of us, and it’s the same on the RFU, doctors and medical side.

"But everyone’s pulling in the same direction and we can only try our best and hopefully we get our full complement of games out over the coming months.”

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