England game against Barbarians cancelled after coronavirus breaches

The Barbarians were due to play England on Sunday as a warm up for the latter's autumn international games. Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images for Barbarians

England's match against the Barbarians on Sunday has been called off after the Barbarians were forced to remove 12 players from their squad on Thursday for breaching their coronavirus code of conduct.

England were set to face the invitational side as a warm up to their Six Nations finale against Italy on Oct. 31. but the RFU could not guarantee the player's safety after members of the squad breached the bio-bubble rules.

"As part of its ongoing investigation into a breach of the coronavirus code of conduct that took place on Oct. 21, the RFU has today discovered there was an earlier undisclosed breach that took place on Oct. 20 when a number of Barbarians players left the hotel bubble without permission and without informing organisers about their whereabouts," a statement from the Rugby Football Union (RFU) read.

"The RFU has concluded that the players leaving their coronavirus-secure environment on Oct. 20 without then isolating from the rest of the group on their return has resulted in the bubble environment being compromised, with the potential risk of coronavirus transmission from individuals outside the bubble to everyone in the Barbarians team and management.

"The RFU is therefore left with no alternative but to cancel the game."

Former England captain Chris Robshaw confirmed on Twitter that he was one of the players who breached the coronavirus protocols.

"I want to express my deepest apologies for breaching the Barbarians COVID-19 restrictions by leaving the hotel post-training with some of my teammates," his statement said. "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 am sincerely remorseful for my role in undoing all the amazing work that went into trying to make it happen. I promise that I will learn from this mistake and ensure it never happens again."

Richard Wigglesworth and Jackson Wray also posted statements on Twitter apologising for their part in breaching the coronavirus protocols.

The Barbarians had managed to put together a matchday squad who all tested negative for coronavirus but the RFU deemed the late alterations too risky to England's autumn international preparations.

"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," RFU CEO Bill Sweeney said.

"There has been a great deal of effort put into Covid codes of conduct and planning for games, including cooperation with Premiership Clubs to release additional players to fulfil the fixture safely, and we are all incredibly frustrated and disappointed that the actions of a number of Barbarians players mean we no longer feel it is safe for the game to go ahead."

Saracens also released a statement after reports that a number of their players were involved in the breach.

"Saracens is extremely disappointed to learn that some of its players breached the agreed coronavirus code of conduct protocol whilst on Barbarians duty," the statement said.

"Although not on club duty whilst with the Barbarians, these players have fallen well short of the high professional standards that are expected at Saracens. Representing the invitational side is a privilege which they have now missed out on due to their poor judgement.

"Management has spoken to the players involved about their responsibilities of representing Saracens away from the club and the impact that these actions have on everyone associated with the club."