Sir Clive Woodward angry at ‘stupid’ Covid breach by Barbarians players

By Duncan Bech, PA England Rugby Correspondent
·3 min read

Sir Clive Woodward has voiced his disbelief at the “stupidity” of a group of Barbarians players for a breach of coronavirus protocols that has placed Sunday’s fixture against England in doubt.

Seasoned veterans Chris Robshaw, Richard Wigglesworth and Sean Maitland were among a contingent of 12 who left the team hotel in central London on Wednesday night in order to have dinner.

The Barbarians are scrambling to fill the gaps in their squad before a deadline of 3pm set by the Rugby Football Union, who are investigating the breach with a view to summoning any transgressors before an independent disciplinary hearing.

Woodward, England’s World Cup-winning coach, is scathing of those whose outside contact risked bringing Covid-19 into the hotel bubble.

“I’m sure they’re feeling incredibly stupid and incredibly embarrassed. It’s just stupidity, they’ve been ridiculously stupid,” Woodward told talkSport.

“My reaction was just kind of gobsmacked really. These are professional players and they know what’s at stake. It’s live on TV, it’s a game that everyone was looking forward to.

“I can’t believe they’ve been so naive and stupid to think they can get away with it. People could see them, they’re well-known people. I just shake my head in disbelief.

Sir Clive Woodward is incensed by the Barbarians players' conduct
Sir Clive Woodward is incensed by the Barbarians players’ conduct, Mike Egerton/PA

“I can believe the Barbarians didn’t sit down and spell it out – A, B, C. This is what you can do and this is what you can’t do. Everyone who steps out of this bubble, you’re gone. You’re history.

“It’s called a bubble for that reason. Some of the players went out, some of them didn’t. Some players listened, some haven’t, which makes it even worse in many respects.”

In their desperation to fulfil the fixture, the invitational club have recruited two players from the second tier of Welsh rugby.

Cardiff RFC have confirmed that full-back Ioan Davies and centre Max Llewellyn, Wales Under-20 internationals who have only a handful of appearances for the Blues between them, have been drafted into the squad for Twickenham.

England’s team announcement for a match that is to act as a warm-up for next weekend’s critical Six Nations clash with Italy has been postponed until this afternoon – if the Barbarians succeed in finding enough players.

The development comes at a time when the RFU is seeking a Government bailout in response to the financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Rugby is not looking good here, let’s face it,” Woodward said.

“It doesn’t matter what sport, professional sportsmen have to be seen to set an example because you are high-profile, you are in the media and big games are coming up so you have to be setting an example to show that we’re all in this together.

“Rugby has a real problem in terms of its finances, there’s no doubt there will be high-level negotiations going on with Government over extra funding and you then get this stuck in your face. It doesn’t look good for other people who are chasing funds.”