Six Nations 2021: France confirm third positive COVID-19 test

By Sports Desk February 17, 2021

A third member of the France backroom team has tested positive for coronavirus, but the players have been cleared to continue their isolation at home after returning negative results.

The French Rugby Federation confirmed on Tuesday that head coach Fabien Galthie and an unnamed member of staff were positive for COVID-19 and would self-isolate for seven days.

Following another round of testing later that day, assistant coach William Servat returned a positive result.

However, with all players testing negative for the second time in succession, they were permitted to return home on Wednesday.

Further coronavirus tests will be carried out at their homes on Friday and on Sunday, when the players return to the National Rugby Centre in Marcoussis.

France, who won their opening two Six Nations games against Italy and Ireland, are scheduled to face Scotland in Paris on February 28.

The squad for that game is due to be announced on Wednesday.

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    George North still believes he could feature for Wales at the back end of the Six Nations as he prepares to return from a gruelling knee injury lay-off.

    The star back, who has successfully converted from wing to outside centre with Wales, has the most international tries of all current players in the world game.

    However, an anterior crucial ligament (ACL) blow has put his career on hold. Sustaining the injury last April forced North to miss the British and Irish Lions' tour of South Africa, plus the autumn internationals.

    He was not included in Wales' 36-player squad for the Six Nations this week, absent along with several other notable injury casualties, including captain Alun Wyn Jones.

    Champions Wales start their Six Nations defence against Ireland in Dublin on February 5, a date which has come much too soon for North to be considered. His short-term priority is getting in shape with his club side, the Ospreys.

    "Hopefully I'll be back into some sort of team training next week," North told Stats Perform.

    Asked whether there was any hope of him being available to Wales during the championship, North said: "There's two big steps: getting back to training full time with the Ospreys, then playing for the Ospreys with a view to potentially, maybe, catching the end of it.

    "But at the moment I'm just focusing on playing back for the Ospreys."

    Wales have home games against France and Italy on March 11 and 19 to finish the campaign, and North may be pushing for selection by then.

    He has been a key component of the Wales team since making his debut as a teenager, and passed 100 caps during the Six Nations last year.

    The 29-year-old has been itching to get back into action, but his absence from the pitch has allowed North some valuable family time.

    He married Olympic cyclist Becky James in 2019, and they had a second son, Tomi, in October of last year.

    North describes his wife as "a superstar" for helping him through a difficult rehabilitation period, and the former Northampton and Scarlets star is relishing his return to action.

    "I take great confidence in knowing a load of rugby boys that I know have had single or double ACLs and they're still playing now, with no issues," North said.

    "Luckily, I'm in a good generation where the medical care is advancing so quickly, so I'm benefiting from that. For me now, the focus is just to get back.

    North, who is a Land Rover ambassador, is evidently relieved to be finally "on the home straight", as he puts it. He compares his current routine to that of a demanding pre-season, with full contact training still to come.

    "I'm finding already this is the most frustrating part," he said, "because obviously you're a lot closer than you were six months ago."

    He can only encourage his Wales colleagues from a distance as the Six Nations looms, and with the likes of Taulupe Faletau, Leigh Halfpenny, Josh Navidi, Ken Owens and Justin Tipuric also sidelined, it will be a challenging campaign for coach Wayne Pivac. North prefers to look at the positives that might come from this testing time.

    "With adversity, you get exciting results," said North, "and the younger boys coming through that we've picked are exciting boys, and I'm excited to see how the boys come together to push on.

    "Any Six Nations is tough. Obviously, you want your main team out there the best you can, and injuries are a nightmare for any team."


    :: George North is a Land Rover ambassador. Visit landrover.co.uk

  • England captain Farrell a doubt for Six Nations after injury setback England captain Farrell a doubt for Six Nations after injury setback

    England captain Owen Farrell is a doubt for the Six Nations after suffering an injury in training.

    The versatile Farrell has not played since November after undergoing ankle surgery he required due to damage done during a 32-15 victory over Australia at Twickenham.

    Farrell was due to feature for Saracens in their European Challenge Cup clash with London Irish on Sunday, but the 30-year-old has suffered another setback.

    Sarries said in a statement: "Owen was back in full training having recovered from the ankle injury he sustained against Australia during the Autumn internationals. 

    "We will have a further update after he sees a specialist early next week."

    Farrell's place in the England side has been called into question, but Eddie Jones this week firmly backed his skipper after naming his squad for a Six Nations tournament that the Red Rose start against Scotland at Murrayfield on February 5.

    "We believe Owen can get into his best form very quickly and we believe he will be right to play against Scotland," the England head coach said.

    “We are hopeful he's going to play this weekend. He has got a good training week with us next week and we will know whether he is right to play. We will just have to wait and see how he goes over the next couple of weeks.

    "He's the best person to captain the team. Very clearly, he's the best person in my judgement to captain the team.

    "If he's fit and eligible for selection, he will captain the team. If he's not then we will make an adjustment to that."

    Courtney Lawes would appear to be the most likely player to take over as captain after leading his country in a win over South Africa in the absence of Farrell.

  • Australian Open: Tiley will not resign as court confirms reasons behind Djokovic deportation Australian Open: Tiley will not resign as court confirms reasons behind Djokovic deportation

    Australian Open chief executive Craig Tiley will not stand down from his position over the handling of the Novak Djokovic case and has refuted claims that Tennis Australia funded the world number one's legal expenses.

    Tiley was speaking after the Federal Court published the written reasons for rejecting Djokovic's appeal to remain in Australia, stating it was "plainly open" to Immigration Minister Alex Hawke that the reigning Australian Open champion was opposed to a COVID-19 vaccination.

    Djokovic failed in his second bid to overturn a decision from the government to cancel his visa on public health grounds at the Federal Court in Melbourne on Sunday, a day before the Australian Open started.

    The 20-time grand slam winner arrived back in Belgrade on Monday, bringing an end to a saga that began after he was held at an airport in Melbourne on January 6 due to his travel declaration form containing incorrect information.

    It was reported this week that Tennis Australia covered all of Djokovic's legal fees, but Tiley – who was jeered by spectators on Thursday while on-court to present flowers to the retiring Samantha Stosur – denied that was the case.

    "I have seen those reports and we don't really go into the detail of financial arrangements we have with players," he told Channel 9. "But those reports are simply untrue."

    Asked if he intended to step aside as chief executive due to the perceived mishandling of the saga, Tiley replied "no" before turning focus to the remainder of the tournament.

    "I am very focused today on delivering a great event," he said.

    "I am proud of being able to stand up here and you can see what is behind us. I am proud of what the team has done and what we have delivered so far."

    Djokovic won his first appeal to avoid deportation from Australia, but Hawke used separate powers to again cancel the 34-year-old's visa.

    That decision was taken amid much backlash in Australia and was upheld unanimously by three judges of the Federal Court's full bench.

    Four days on from that verdict, which denied Djokovic the chance to win a record-extending 10th Australian Open crown, Chief Justice James Allsop delivered the court's reasons for rejecting the challenge.

    It was found that it was reasonable for Hawke to be concerned by Djokovic's high-profile presence in the country as it "may encourage rallies and protests that may lead to heightened community transmission."

    "An iconic tennis star may influence people of all ages, young or old, but perhaps especially the young and the impressionable, to emulate him," Allsop added in his report.

    "This is not fanciful; it does not need evidence.

    "Even if Mr Djokovic did not win the Australian Open, the capacity of his presence in Australia playing tennis to encourage those who would emulate or wish to be like him is a rational foundation for the view that he might foster anti-vaccination sentiment.

    "I consider that behaviour by influential persons and role models, which demonstrates a failure to comply with, or a disregard of, public health measures has the potential to undermine the efficacy and consistency of the Australian Government’s and State and Territory Governments' management of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

    "Mr Djokovic is such a person of influence and status. Having regard to the matters set out above regarding Mr Djokovic's conduct after receiving a positive COVID-19 result, his publicly stated views, as well as his unvaccinated status, I consider that his ongoing presence in Australia may pose a risk to the good order of the Australian community."

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