Piers Francis will not join up with England after testing positive for coronavirus
Northampton fly-half Piers Francis will not join up with the England squad this week after testing positive for coronavirus, the Rugby Football Union has announced.
Francis played for Northampton in their game against Sale, who have since recorded 19 positive Covid-19 cases, a week ago.
“Piers Francis will not be part of this week’s England camp because of a positive screening test for Covid-19,” an RFU statement read.
“Francis is following relevant isolation protocols at home in line with PHE-agreed guidelines.”
The news on Francis comes after Eddie Jones revealed England were sweating on three players who might have to withdraw from the national training camp due to coronavirus concerns.
Head coach Jones named a much-changed 28-man squad featuring 12 uncapped players on Monday, for a three-day camp.
He was already unable to select players from half of the Premiership, with the top four embroiled in the play-offs and Sale and Worcester facing a rearranged match on Wednesday after the Sharks’ Covid-19 outbreak.
But by Tuesday morning, the England boss was forced to concede that three further players could have to withdraw from the makeshift national squad.
Refusing to name the players in question, Jones admitted England will continue to monitor the situation.
Asked how much the Sale situation could disrupt England, Jones said: “Well I really don’t know what’s happened, all I try to do is select the players that are available, so that’s all I’ve been worried about.
“We’re looking at three players today, whether they will be available to be selected, we’ll find out this morning and then we’ll just wait and see.
“Look, I think this is going to be the way it is at the moment.
“I just saw in the football England had three players unavailable this morning, they can’t go into Gareth Southgate’s camp.”
That is a reference to Tammy Abraham, Ben Chilwell and Jadon Sancho being prevented from joining up with Southgate’s squad on schedule as England “gather further information of a social gathering that all three players reportedly attended”.
Sale have been forced to deny claims that the string of positive coronavirus cases at the club stemmed from players flouting social distancing rules.
The Sharks’ final regular-season clash with Worcester had to be postponed at the weekend, and is slated to be played on Wednesday night.
Sale can still force their way into the play-offs with a win over the Warriors, but insist they would forfeit the fixture if their coronavirus situation has not eased in time.
England boss Jones insisted he has not been appraised fully of events at Sale, but admitted the Covid-19 impact remains unavoidable.
“It’s a fact of life at the moment, that’s what we have to deal with, we can’t get too worried about it, we’re not too obsessed about it,” said Jones.
“We’ll just take the players that are available, and work with those players.
“We’ve just got to ride with whatever happens at the moment.
“It’s a matter of adapting, there’s going to be more changes, and we anticipate that, so we’ve just got to ride with it, work out what we can do, work out what we can’t do, and take it on board.”
England will start a packed schedule with the non-cap international clash against the Barbarians, before completing the delayed Six Nations and moving onto the new Autumn Nations Cup.
Jones would typically be without his frontline stars for the Barbarians game, given the standard clash with the Premiership final.
And the no-nonsense Australian admitted battling where possible to conduct business as usual, at least in coaching terms.
“Traditionally this camp’s always been about giving opportunities to young players and having chances to see new people,” said Jones.
“You get teams that aren’t in the Premiership semi-finals, so you get a smattering of young guys.
“It’s the same now, and so it’s a great opportunity for them to raise their hands and see how far they can go with selection.”