Five more France players including the captain, Charles Ollivon, have tested positive for Covid-19, raising serious concerns over the Six Nations match against Scotland in Paris on Sunday.
Replacements have been summoned and the squad will be tested every 24 hours with a view to returning to training on Wednesday, but the fixture on Sunday has to be considered a doubt as the outbreak in the French camp continues to grow.
Ten players and four members of the backroom staff – including the head coach, Fabien Galthié – have now tested positive while a further two members of the management are considered “suspicious cases”.
The five players named on Monday by France – Ollivon, Cyril Baille, Peato Mauvaka, Brice Dulin and Romain Taofifenua – will be sent home with the rest of the squad still in isolation. Gaetan Balot, Thierry Paiva, Cyril Cazeaux, Baptiste Pesenti and Thomas Ramos have been called in to the squad.
Over the weekend, Arthur Vincent, Julien Marchand, Gabin Villière and Mohamed Haouas all tested positive, after Antoine Dupont had done so on Friday. In total, nine of the 23-man squad from France’s victory against Ireland have tested positive and, while squad depth is less of a problem for the Six Nations leaders, tournament organisers are now facing a difficult decision.
They will be desperate to avoid postponing or cancelling matches but were compelled to act after an outbreak in the Fiji camp during the Autumn Nations Cup and, with the number of positive cases within the France squad swelling, the fixture in Paris on Sunday seems increasingly in jeopardy.
Before the tournament the Six Nations chief executive, Ben Morel, revealed the preference was for postponement rather than cancellation and delaying the fixture by a week to the second fallow weekend would seem possible.
That could cause a problem for Scotland, however, if there is no agreement in place over access to their Premiership players as well as the fly-half Finn Russell, who plays in the Top 14 with Racing 92.