Competition officials set out their contingency plans and commitment to completing the season as it announced new fixture dates for two scheduled rounds.
Danny Wilson and Mike Blair’s sides had avoided disruption to their schedules when the mutated virus was discovered in South Africa last month leading to games being postponed for Cardiff, Munster and Scarlets, who were already in the country preparing for URC games in rounds six and seven. These are now set to be played in March, while travel restrictions and difficulties imposed by the spread of the virus have also been incorporated and considered in the new calendar with South African derby matches also moved.
Both Glasgow and Edinburgh’s fixtures remain unaffected in the amended calendar, which has been laid out through to round 17, with planned matches on January 8 involving South African sides travelling to Ireland and Italy moved later in an attempt to avoid further disruption.
A URC statement read: “The URC is fully committed to playing all games as scheduled but will ensure that the welfare of teams and players comes first.
“The league is greatly encouraged by the decision of the UK government to ease travel restrictions with respect to South Africa and will continue to comply with directions set out by the health authorities and government departments in our various jurisdictions.
“The URC Medical Advisory Group will continue to provide regular guidance and updates to our clubs regarding best practice and health and safety measures in relation to Covid-19 protocols.
“The dates and kick-off times for round 18 will be confirmed next month after consultation with our broadcast partners who have been of a great assistance during this process.”
That means Munster, Cardiff, Scarlets and Zebre Parma whose games in South Africa were postponed will return south for their double-headers in early March. Matches involving South African teams in round ten, planned for next month, have also been moved to the last week in February
Scotland’s two URC representatives are still scheduled to play on Monday, December 27 in Scotstoun before meeting for the 1872 Cup on January 2, 2022 at the DAM Stadium.