Queensland Reds COVID19 outbreak Rugby Australia to create player pool

Rugby Australia is working on providing a shared pool of replacement players for its Super Rugby clubs as the Queensland Reds become the latest sports team to be hit hard by a COVID-19 outbreak.

The Reds now have five star backs in isolation after Wallabies Hunter Paisami and Tate McDermott joined James O’Connor, Jordan Petaia and Jock Campbell in testing positive for the virus.

Paisami played in Saturday’s 42-33 trial loss to the Western Force in Brisbane before presenting symptoms yesterday but Force coach Tim Sampson today said that none of his squad had yet been affected.

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With Thorn on the mend, Reds general manager of professional rugby Sam Cordingley stepped in for media duties in the Super Rugby Pacific virtual launch.

Cordingley said Paisami and McDermott would miss Saturday’s trial against the NSW Waratahs in Roma but expected Thorn to be available.

The status of O’Connor, Petaia and Campbell was to be confirmed.

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“Better now, obviously than during the season,” Cordingley said.

The Waratahs have already been ravaged by the virus during pre-season.

New coach Darren Coleman said only “seven or eight” of his wider squad had managed to avoid it and revealed that RA was was setting up contingency plans for the season that kicks off on February 18.

Turner flies for Tahs try

“There’s two pools of players we can take from if we need,” Coleman said.

“There’s our academy boys… but Rugby Australia have just set up another pool of players, 30 club guys they’re trying to keep fit and ready to jump in, when and if we get hit. Some of them have played Super Rugby before, that have dropped out of squads but still keen on their footy.”

An RA spokesperson later clarified that plans remained a work in progress and were yet to be formalised.

Coleman spells out Waratahs vision

“You could lose sleep over it but what’s the point?” Coleman continued.

“Everyone’s dealing with it and I’ve got no doubt it will hit us at some point.”

Brumbies coach Dan McKellar pointed out that player safety could be an issue if stocks in certain positions got too thin.

“It’s a tricky one, tighthead props of high quality don’t grow on trees,” McKellar said.

“You lose a couple to COVID and rugby is a different game to say the Big Bash where you can bring in club players. You don’t want to be exposing players that aren’t ready to play at a professional level.

“It’d be pretty tough to go from playing against Tuggeranong Vikings to playing against the Crusaders, as an example, as a front-rower.”

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