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'An utter shambles': RFU, Barbarians savaged for 'unforgivable' match cancellation after COVID outbreak

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27th November, 2021
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The highly-anticipated Barbarians versus Samoa match at Twickenham was cancelled shortly before kick-off after several members of the Barbarians tested positive for COVID-19.

The Rugby Football Union released a statement saying, “Due to six confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Barbarian’s men’s team (four players and two members of staff), the Professional Game Testing Oversight Group has advised that the fixture scheduled to be played against Samoa at 2:30 pm today is unable to proceed.”

“We appreciate that this is an extremely disappointing situation for the many fans due to attend, but the safety of all members of both teams is our priority.”

The cancellation was described as ‘unforgivable’ by former Wales international turned presenter Jonathan Davies, who slammed the Barbarians for being unable to fulfil the fixture after Samoa’s arduous effort to set it up.

Samoa were forced to head to the UK for the match without coaches and players from the southern hemisphere, due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. However, their desire to play their only scheduled match of the autumn was evident in both their thorough promotion of the match in the build-up, and the team taking to the field following the cancellation to sing their national anthem and perform the Siva Tau.

“It is an utter shambles,” Davies told The Telegraph.

“Samoa promoted the game and pulled all the stops to get here without their full strength squad; ironically, due to COVID restrictions some could not travel. And now this!

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“They get all this way here and it is called off so soon to kick-off. It’s not good enough.”

It’s the second year in a row the Barbarians have been forced to cancel a match; the team were condemned for breaking COVID protocols and leaving the team base ahead of a 2020 match against England.

The Barbarian FC Twitter account tried to provide some clarity on the situation, claiming that they still had a fit 23 ready to compete and that the entire squad had complied with COVID protocols throughout the week.

Ultimately, it was concluded that there was still too much risk if the match went ahead. Unfortunately, Samoa’s Joe Tekori and the Barbarians’ Rob Kearney (a former Ireland full back) were both deprived of the chance to appear in their final matches.

Tekori’s reaction to the cancellation added a further gut-punch to events. The veteran lock had to hold back tears in an interview with the BBC, apologising to Samoan fans for the match being called off.

“We were just walking inside the stadium. We already put our [kits on]. We were ready for the game and our coaches and our management came into the changing room and said, ‘Sorry boys, the game’s got cancelled’,” Tekori said.

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“I know it’s my last game for my country and it is sad for me.

“I don’t want to end like this, but more importantly, I want all those young Samoans to know there’s a lot of potential in this Samoan team and to carry on. Manu Samoa means [a lot] to all of our country and to all Samoans around the world. But for me, this is my last one.

“I’ll finish like this, this is okay for me.”

In its place, the Barbarians women versus Springboks match was moved up and played in front of a record crowd of 29,581. Led by Katy Daley-McLean, also playing in her final match, the Barbarians dominated, rolling over the Springboks 60-5.

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