Sale Sharks' final Gallagher Premiership match against Worcester Warriors has been cancelled due to more coronavirus cases, meaning they miss out on a place in the end-of-season playoffs.
Sale were meant to play Worcester on Sunday but the game was delayed after the Sharks returned a cluster of positive coronavirus results. The match was postponed to Wednesday and Sale said earlier in the week they would forfeit the match if they received any further positive tests.
The Premiership confirmed on Wednesday that an additional six players and two staff from the Sharks had tested positive on Wednesday, taking the total number of positive cases to 27 in the last seven days. This means Worcester are awarded a 20-0 win, under Premiership Rugby regulations.
"I have spoken to Sale Sharks this morning and neither the club or Premiership Rugby will take risks with people's health," Premiership Rugby Chief Executive Darren Childs said.
"Together we won't compromise our commitment that matches will only happen if it is safe to do so, therefore the game is off. Today's decision demonstrates that commitment.
"We know everyone at Sale Sharks will be devastated, and we share their disappointment that their season ends this way... People fight hard for points in and for a place in the semifinal but everyone agrees this has to take second place to people's health and well-being."
The result means Sale will finish the season in fifth, three points off fourth-place Bath who will now play Exeter in the semifinals on Saturday. Had Sale played Wednesday and won, they'd have had just 64 hours before their semifinal.
Sale had named a 'Covid compliant' matchday squad on Tuesday but the game was always reliant on the Sharks not returning any further positive tests and Public Health England giving the game the go ahead.
The Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby are also conducting an investigation into the source of the outbreak.
Worcester harboured fears over playing the match so soon after Sale had registered their 19 positive cases -- of which 16 were players, and three staff.