RFU charge 13 Barbarians players for Covid-19 bubble breaches

The Rugby Football Union have announced that 13 Barbarians players will face disciplinary charges after breaching the team’s Covid-19 bubble last week, which led to the cancellation of England’s fixture against the Barbarians.

The identities of the players have not been revealed, with the RFU saying: “The RFU recognises the pressure public scrutiny is placing on the players and therefore it will publish players’ names, full judgements and sanctions after the hearings have concluded.”

The players face a range of charges including:

  • Individual breaches of the protocols (e.g. leaving the hotel without permission or without informing organisers of their whereabouts)
  • Providing false statements during an investigation

All those players charged will face an online Independent Disciplinary Panel chaired by Philip Evans QC charged with conduct prejudicial to the interests of the Union or the Game, contrary to RFU Rule 5.12. A date for the hearing is yet to be confirmed.

Two breaches of the Barbarians’ hotel bubble last week led to the cancellation of Sunday’s fixture between England and the Barbarians, a crucial warm-up fixture for Eddie Jones’ Rugby World Cup finalists who have not played since March, with the cancellation estimated to have cost the RFU around £1m.

The Metropolitan Police announced earlier this week that the players involved, who were allegedly captured on video drinking in the Running Horse pub in Mayfair, would not be charged retrospectively for breaking any social distancing or ‘rule of six’ measures.

Several players, including Chris Robshaw and Richard Wigglesworth, have since apologised for their actions, with Robshaw releasing a statement saying: “A huge effort went into conducting this match in a safe fashion and it was irresponsible of me to break the protocols which are put in place to protect players, staff and the public.

“I understand that my actions have ultimately contributed to the cancellation of Sunday’s match and I am sincerely remorseful for my role in undoing all the amazing work that went into trying to make it happen.”

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