St Helens v Hull KR in doubt due to Covid issues
Saints' first home game since lifting the Challenge Cup at Wembley on Saturday is in doubt due to Covid-19.
Friday's clash against Hull KR at the Totally Wicked Stadium seems to be in the balance after the Humberside club postponed their normal weekly press conference at the 11th-hour on Tuesday and rearranged it for today (Wednesday).
Matches across all three tiers of professional rugby league this weekend are set to fall victim to the rise in Covid-19 infections.
Two fixtures in Betfred League 1 have already been postponed while Sunday’s Championship match between London Broncos and Widnes has been cancelled.
There are also serious doubts over the Super League fixtures featuring last Saturday’s Challenge Cup finalists.
St Helens, who were victorious at Wembley, are due to host Hull KR on Friday while Castleford are scheduled to play Catalans Dragons in Perpignan on Saturday.
A decision is expected this morning and, if both fixtures are postponed, efforts will be made to rearrange Hull KR’s trip to Perpignan, which was originally due to be played on July 5, in order to ensure the Catalans do not lose another home game.
The Dragons, top of the table and on a club-record nine-match winning run, are now permitted crowds but have played all-but five of their 15 league and cup fixtures so far this season in England.
Thursday's round 15 fixture between Leigh and Warrington was called off on Monday after the Wolves reported another positive test, on top of the ones that caused the postponement of their previous game against Hull KR.
Hull KR hinted at a postponement when they cancelled coach Tony Smith’s weekly press conference at 40 minutes’ notice, while St Helens announced the closure of the club’s ticket office for the rest of the day due to “unforeseen circumstances”.
They are set to take the number of postponements in Super League to 12 while two more were cancelled after a combination of Covid protocol and injuries meant Castleford and Huddersfield were unable to raise a team.
It will be the fifth postponement for Hull KR, who are the club most seriously impacted by the pandemic’s new wave. Their derby against Hull FC has been called off twice and is not guaranteed to be arranged for a third time.
Smith’s men have not played since June 18 when they toppled Wigan, a third successive win which lifted them into the top six, but they have played four games fewer than some of their rivals.
With only eight weeks left of the regular season after this weekend, Hull KR could face some difficulty getting in the eight fixtures they still need to fulfil in order to meet the minimum of 18 required to qualify for the play-offs.
More than seven of London Broncos’ top-25 players have been required to isolate either following positive Covid tests or as close contacts, and the clubs have agreed with the Rugby Football League that there is no possible date for rearrangement before the end of the season.
The Championship table, as in Super League and League 1, will be determined by win points percentage to allow for the fact that not all fixtures will be fulfilled.
Both Doncaster and Rochdale have more than seven of their top-25 players unavailable due to Covid protocols, allowing them to ask the RFL for a postponement of their home matches against North Wales Crusaders and Workington respectively.
Rochdale announced a total of 11 players and three staff all tested positive for Covid-19 at different times over the last 10 days and have closed down training until Thursday.
The League 1 clubs will liaise with the RFL over possible rearrangements.