Players in the Premier 15s will be tested for coronavirus when the league resumes, the Rugby Football Union has confirmed.
The country’s top women’s rugby tier was suspended earlier this month for two weeks amid surging Covid-19 cases, a day after Premiership Rugby’s decision to also break for a fortnight.
There had been growing concern over players’ welfare in the RFU’s flagship women’s competition, where adapted law variations have been brought in to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission, including limited scrums and 35-minute halves.
The RFU told Telegraph Sport it will pay for twice-weekly lateral flow tests, which provide Covid-19 results in 30 minutes, to complement the existing law variations already in place.
It is not known how much the testing will cost, although one source told Telegraph Sport it was likely to be in the region of £500 a week for each of the league’s 10 teams. All Premier 15s clubs are already following rigorous Covid-19 protocols in training and match days.
The RFU intends to restart the Premier 15s on January 30 – although that date could be pushed back depending on the public health situation – with an official update due next week. It is understood resuming the league on February 6 would be a worst-case scenario.
The body has already confirmed the adapted law variations will be in place for the rest of the 2020-21 Premier 15s season.
Earlier this month, US international and Harlequins player Kristine Sommer called for coronavirus testing to be introduced in the Premier 15s amid mounting concern that players’ safety was being compromised in the wake of surging infection rates.
Sommer wrote on social media: “I’ll say it 100,000 times how grateful I am to play rugby in the UK, but when is player safety a concern? No real bubbles – no testing. This should be discussed, right?”