Super League contends with new Covid-19 concerns as Challenge Cup final looms

Richard Agar admits the threat of a Covid-19 outbreak in Challenge Cup week is a growing concern with Leeds’ clash with Castleford tonight in doubt after more positive cases.

Three Tigers players have contracted the virus and a further six have been stood down through test and trace, leaving them with only 14 fit men at present.

Three more will have fitness tests on Thursday morning before a decision is made on the Yorkshire derby, one of two matches Agar’s squad have to navigate before their Wembley showdown with Salford on October 17.

The Rhinos had to delay their Wednesday training session while some of their players were cleared on test on trace, after a third positive case at last Saturday’s opponents Wigan. The Castleford game is now on a knife edge hours before kick-off, and a repeat scenario next week is a valid worry.

Agar said: “I wouldn’t want to be the bloke to tell them that they’re missing out on a showpiece final, especially if it’s through test and trace from an opposition team.

“What we’ve found is that of the guys that have been stood down on test and trace, none of them have developed Covid symptoms and I might be wrong, but as far as I know none have tested positive. It would be an extremely bitter pill to swallow if that was the case.

“We’re asking the guys to be vigilant and we’re really confident that we’ve got a secure training venue here. Brad Dwyer had it, he was at home with his mum and dad, spent a couple of days in training when he would have been infectious, and has infected nobody around him.

“We’ve asked them to be ultra careful but the difficult thing is where do you get it, where do you pick it up from?  We want them to be as much in a bubble as they can be.

“We’re very socially distanced when we do our team talk at the moment, in our meeting rooms everybody wears a mask and there are hand sanitisers everywhere. We’re taking the utmost caution but sometimes as we’ve found out it’s actually out of our hands.”

Salford have already experienced major disruption in their squad when 11 players were stood down after facing Hull FC in August, though none tested positive. They face Huddersfield on Thursday and Hull KR on Tuesday ahead of their first Challenge Cup final in 51 years.

Coach Ian Watson said: “You could pick it up anywhere and the players are probably safer in our bubble following our guidelines and rules.

“We’ve been good as a club and we need to maintain it now – there’s more emphasis on this now because of the Challenge Cup final coming up.”

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