Fijian Drua have suffered a double setback ahead of Friday night’s Super Rugby Pacific clash with the NSW Waratahs, forced to relocate camp and coach Mick Byrne catching the coronavirus.
Byrne is self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 and won’t be with the team when they tackle the Waratahs at Cbus Super Stadium.
“Mick is clearly gutted not to be with the team but remains in good spirits as he completes his recovery and self-isolation period,” said Drua chief executive Brian Thorburn.
“He continues to call the shots, of course, and the players are in the very capable hands of our coaching and management staff.
“Mick will join the team once cleared by the medical staff.”
Byrne’s positive test comes as rising floodwaters caused the Lake Ainsworth Sport and Rec Centre – the squad’s base at Lennox Heads – to close and on-site residents including Drua squad and staff to evacuate.
The Drua have relocated to the Gold Coast for rounds seven and eight and hope to return to the NSW far north coast for the remainder of the competition.
“This is just a minor bump in the road compared to everything else we’ve faced in our inaugural season,” Thorburn said.
“It was challenging to move almost 55 people with just a few hours’ notice, but we have managed to find suitable accommodation with training facilities nearby for our entire squad of players and staff.
“Of course, our situation pales in comparison to those folks in Northern NSW and the Northern Rivers region, as they brace themselves for yet more adversity.
“Our thoughts are with them.”
The Drua lost 40-10 to the Waratahs in their Super Rugby debut in round one and will face an even more formidable NSW outfit this time around.
Wallabies captain Michael Hooper makes his long-awaited return for the Tahs off the bench.
The champion flanker is expected to enter the fray in the second half as the Waratahs look to complete a season double over the Drua and keep their finals hopes alive.
Stand-in skipper Jed Holloway, still deputising for the injured Jake Gordon, says the Waratahs have targeted the Drua and their trip to Perth to play the Western Force as must-win matches.
“There’s a big focus on these next two coming off a tough loss against the Reds on the weekend,” Holloway said at Thursday’s captain’s run.
“But I think the inclusions this week with Hoops coming back and being in the full swing of things and Lalakai (Foketi’s) 50th as well just raises the intensity.”