The Sale Sharks final Premiership fixture looks set to be cancelled, after the club was levelled with a coronavirus outbreak in their playing squad.
Sale, who reportedly had a “double figure number” number of positive tests could now see their final fixture of the season against the Worcester Warriors cancelled.
The Sharks defeated the Northampton Saints in their previous game 14-34 to keep their fate in their own hands, as they look to clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2006.
Will the Sale Sharks still make the playoffs?
However, the outbreak in the squad will likely force Steve Diamond’s men to forfeit their game against Worcester, thus cruelly knocking them out of playoff contention.
Playoff rivals Bristol face 10th placed London Irish on Sunday, barring a London Irish win Bristol will qualify for the postseason.
Strangely, Sharks Director of Rugby Steve Diamond predicted this scenario in August, suggesting to the Guardian that if a team is unable to field a team that the opposition should “get a 20-0 win”.
What will happen?
The PRL are now scrambling to find a solution as the Sharks season hangs in the balance. Eliminating a team via a technicality may cause complications further down the line too.
What happens if a team suffers an outbreak prior to the final in a fortnight? What happens if the same scenario occurs in the playoffs? Do teams simply receive byes and qualify on a technicality?
The current predicament will also deprive players, fans and broadcasters alike of a grandstand finish to the campaign.
Sale are currently fourth in the Premiership table, level on points with Bristol, with Bath in third and Wasps in second. Just two points separate the four teams heading into the final day.
Bristol ensured the race for the play-offs would go down to the wire with a morale-boosting 40-3 win over Leicester Tigers.
While Bath overcame Gloucester 31-20 and Wasps secured victory at Northampton with a 32-23 success.
If the Premiership demands for Sale to forfeit the game, Bath and Wasps will qualify for the playoffs prior to kickoff. Bristol would require a point to claim fourth.
The PRL have now been left in a precarious position… one which could damage the integrity of the competition and leave Sale’s title dreams in tatters.