Sale Sharks have been forced to forfeit their decisive Premiership clash with Worcester Warriors after six more players and two members of staff tested positive for COVID-19.

The cancellation means the Sharks cannot bridge the three-point gap to Bath and therefore miss out on the play-offs, with the Warriors awarded a 20-0 victory.

The contest, the sides' final match of the regular season, was originally scheduled to take place last Sunday but was rearranged to Wednesday after 19 confirmed cases of coronavirus at Sale.

Premiership Rugby then confirmed eight further positives, which led to Wednesday's announcement.

"This is devastating for Sale Sharks, the players and staff with COVID-19 denying the club the chance to challenge for the Premiership title at the final hurdle," read a Sale statement.

"Sale Sharks and all involved with the club are determined to come back stronger than ever in time for next season."

In the play-offs, Exeter Chiefs will host Bath, while Bristol Bears head to Wasps.

Bristol Bears sealed a Premiership play-off place with a 36-7 drubbing of London Irish but Bath face an anxious wait to discover if they will feature in the semi-finals following a draw with Saracens. 

The postponement of Sale Sharks' clash with Worcester Warriors until Wednesday due to "a number" of positive coronavirus at the Lancashire club meant the play-off picture could not be finalised on Sunday. 

Bristol started the last round of fixtures outside the top four, but a demolition of the Exiles ensured they remain in the hunt for the title. 

Semi Radradra, Ben Earl, Harry Thacker and Will Capon crossed, while Bristol were also awarded a penalty try as they moved above Bath into third place. 

Bath's season will be over if Sale beat Worcester in midweek, although whether the game goes ahead depends on the results of COVID-19 testing, after relegated Saracens came back from 14 points down in the second half to draw 17-17 at Allianz Park.

Bath looked set to seal a place in the last four when Rhys Priestland put them 17-3 up early in the second half, following on tries from Beno Obano and former Sarries scrum-half Ben Spencer. 

The defending champions stormed back in their last game in the top flight, a penalty try and Tim Swinson's score - both converted by Manu Vunipola - rocking Bath. 

Wasps sealed second place, and a home semi-final, with a 46-5 rout of Exeter Chiefs - already assured of top spot - and Harlequins beat Leicester Tigers 32-26 in Chris Robshaw's farewell match. 

Gloucester were awarded a 20-0 bonus-point win over Northampton Saints, who had insufficient front-rowers to start the match with a number of their players self-isolating after playing against Sale.

Sale Sharks have confirmed their decisive Premiership clash with Worcester Warriors will go ahead on Sunday despite "a number" of positive coronavirus tests at the club.

Steve Diamond's side occupy the fourth and final play-off spot ahead of the final round of the regular season.

Sale on Friday revealed an unspecified number of positive COVID-19 tests have been returned before the huge game at the AJ Bell Stadium.

But the depleted Sharks will not have to forfeit the match, which would result in a 20-0 defeat.

A club statement said: "Sale Sharks can confirm that their Premiership round 22 match with Worcester Warriors, scheduled for 3pm on Sunday 4th October, will go ahead as planned.

"Although Sale Sharks have been subject to a number of positive COVID-19 tests, after a thorough consultation, the club, its healthcare professionals and rugby management are confident the fixture can be fulfilled safely in accordance with all COVID-19 guidelines.

"As directed by Premiership Rugby earlier today, the Sharks matchday-23 to face Worcester Warriors will be announced at 12:00pm on Saturday 3rd October."

Sale are only ahead of fifth-placed Bristol Bears, who travel to London Irish on Sunday, on points difference.

Manu Tuilagi and Courtney Lawes were both injured as Sale Sharks boosted their hopes of qualifying for the Premiership play-offs with a comfortable 34-14 win at Northampton Saints. 

The fourth-placed Sharks scored six tries, including two in the first half from Luke James, to seal a routine win that puts them five points ahead of fifth-placed Bristol Bears. 

However, their performance was overshadowed by blows suffered by England internationals Tuilagi and Lawes. 

Northampton's Lawes suffered a knee injury in the eighth minute and four minutes later Tuilagi, playing in his sixth game for Sale since a move from Leicester Tigers, was forced off with an apparent Achilles problem. 

Tuilagi later returned to the stands on crutches, likely making him a doubt for the semi-finals should Sale qualify. 

Bristol face Leicester in their game in hand on Wednesday, then travel to London Irish at the weekend. Sale, meanwhile, finish the regular season by taking on Worcester Warriors on Sunday. 

Saracens thumped title favourites Exeter Chiefs 40-17 in the final Premiership match between the teams for at least a season.

With Saracens heading down to the Championship, punished for breaching salary-cap rules, they will hope to make a swift return and re-establish the rivalry with the Devonians.

A five-try performance from the home side secured the points on this occasion, yet both sides were significantly under-strength, with their focus firmly on next week's European Champions Cup quarter-finals.

Saracens, without suspended England captain Owen Farrell, turned up tries from Rotimi Segun, Dom Morris, Elliott Obatoyinbo, Jaco Venter and Cameron Boon.

Facundo Cordero, Will Witty and Dave Dennis replied for Exeter, whose six-match winning run since the league re-started came to an end.

Next Saturday sees holders Saracens go to Pro14 winners Leinster in the Champions Cup, followed a day later by Exeter's home test against Northampton Saints.

The race to join Exeter in the four-team play-offs intensified as the day ended with the sides in second to fifth position separated by just two points.

Sale Sharks fell from second to fourth place after losing 37-22 at home to Bath, for whom Rhys Priestland booted 17 points.

Bath's tries came from Ruaridh McConnochie, Jonathan Joseph and Ben Spencer, who crossed twice, as they nudged up to third in the table.

Wasps now sit second, after they picked apart Bristol 59-35, knocking the Bears down to fifth spot.

They had eight try-scorers in the bonus-point success, with Jack Willis, Josh Bassett, Tom Cruse, Will Rowlands, Zach Kibirige, Dan Robson, Tom Willis and Gabriel Oghre all going over, as well as a penalty try.

Lowly Leicester Tigers secured a 28-24 win over Northampton Saints, with Ben Youngs marking his 250th appearance for the club by bagging a fifth-minute try.

Worcester Warriors enjoyed a 40-25 win at Twickenham Stoop against fellow strugglers London Irish, with Francois Hougaard and Ollie Lawrence both scoring a pair of tries.

Alfie Barbeary scored a memorable hat-trick as Wasps destroyed Leicester Tigers to keep up their Premiership play-off bid.

Malakai Fekitoa and Tom West scored after Cameron Henderson had put Tigers ahead, giving Wasps a seven-point advantage at half-time at the Ricoh Arena.

The visitors, captained by Ellis Genge for the first time, came unstuck in the second half as they endured the biggest league defeat in their history.

Barbeary's treble came as Jacob Umaga, Sam Spink and Zach Kibirige also went over, while Leicester lost Ben Youngs and Guy Porter to the sin bin in an ill-disciplined display.

Wasps head coach Lee Blackett said of 19-year-old Barbeary, who was making his first Premiership start: "He's a big project and he's nowhere near the finished article.

"There are plenty of areas of his game he needs to keep working on. We're trying to manage him by picking him in the back row."

Wasps are fourth in the table, a point above Bath, who claimed a 40-15 win over Worcester Warriors thanks largely to 15 points from Josh Matavesi.

Leaders Exeter Chiefs made certain of their own play-off spot after downing Gloucester 35-22.

Joe Simmonds converted all five tries, including his brother Sam's, as the leaders made it seven wins in a row despite allowing Gloucester late scores through Matt Banahan and Josh Gray.

Sale Sharks moved into second with a 24-17 win over Saracens, who were without the banned Owen Farrell, while London Irish suffered an eighth straight defeat after surrendering a 15-10 half-time lead to lose 38-15 to Harlequins.

England captain Owen Farrell was sent off as Saracens were downed 28-18 by high-flying Wasps, while a limited crowd saw Harlequins well beaten by Bath at The Stoop.

Sarries named a stronger side on paper than Saturday's opponents at Allianz Park and the game was poised at 15-15 after tries from ex-Wasps star Elliot Daly and Sean Maitland, plus five points from Farrell's boot, were answered by five penalties from the classy Jimmy Gopperth.

But Farrell saw red after catching Charlie Atkinson in the face with his left shoulder just after the hour and Tom Willis powered over with 10 minutes to go, while Gopperth finished with 23 points on his 100th Wasps appearance.

Around 2,700 fans were in attendance for Quins' home clash with Bath as part of a test event as the United Kingdom aims to get spectators back at sporting events amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But having fans back did little to inspire Quins as Bath earned a 41-27 bonus-point win that moved them fifth, with Ruaridh McConnochie scoring in each half and Rhys Priestland kicking 21 points.

Sale Sharks regained second spot in the table as Manu Tuilagi scored against his former club Leicester Tigers in a 40-31 triumph at Welford Road.

There were seven tries in total in a high-scoring game, in which AJ MacGinty, Jono Ross and Denny Solomona also registered for Sale.

Rounding out the action, Gloucester picked up a bonus point with a 36-23 victory over London Irish.

Luke James scored two tries as Sale Sharks thrashed Bristol 40-7 to jump above their visitors and go second in the Premiership table.

Sharks made a host of changes following their midweek win at Wasps, with Tom Curry, Lood de Jager, Faf de Klerk and Manu Tuilagi among those returning, and they subsequently outclassed the Bears.

A narrow defeat to Exeter halted a seven-match winning streak last time out for Bristol and they never looked likely to bounce back here, with Sale enjoying an emphatic start that saw James and Denny Solomona touching down in the first 10 minutes, while both conversions were on the money.

De Klerk and Sam James had Sale 26 points to the good just after the half-hour mark, though Alapati Leiua went over at the other end late in the half to at least give Bristol a lifeline.

But the Sharks found their groove again early in the second period, with Luke James getting his second try before Marland Yarde grabbed Sale's sixth and last of the day – AJ MacGinty took his conversions tally to five for the match soon after.

The comfortable win sees the Sharks replace Bristol in second place, with Exeter nine points clear at the summit.

Exeter Chiefs snatched a late 25-22 win over Bristol Bears to move 11 points clear at the top of the Premiership.

The Chiefs led 15-3 at the break but tries from Piers O'Conor and Luke Morahan had Bristol ahead 13 minutes into the second half.

Gareth Steenson's penalty had Exeter ahead again, however Ioan Lloyd's try 10 minutes from time seemingly had Bristol on course for victory.

But there was a final twist in a thrilling second-half tale as prop Billy Keast forced his way over from a ruck in the final seconds.

Elsewhere, Sale Sharks leapfrogged Wasps into third place with a 20-11 victory.

Marland Yarde has condemned death threats made to some of his Sale Sharks who opted not to take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Every Sale player wore a t-shirt with 'Rugby Against Racism' on the front before a Premiership clash with Exeter Chiefs last Friday, with five taking a knee.

The Sharks' South African contingent remained on their feet, resulting in a backlash from their homeland.

South Africa's Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa called for an explanation as to why the likes of Faf de Klerk, twins Jean-Luc and Daniel du Preez and Lood de Jager did not take a knee.

Sale players have also come in for sickening online abuse and wing Yarde says that cannot be tolerated.

He tweeted: "I stand 100% for the Black Lives Matter movement and whole heartedly believe in the importance of highlighting the continuous battle that we face in society everyday and the need for a change.

"I have to also stand against death threats against my team-mates which is totally unacceptable. This behaviour will not make the world a better place. We are united we are a team!! #blacklivesmatter #rugbyagainstracism."

Exeter Chiefs produced a second-half surge as the Premiership leaders claimed a 32-22 win at Sale Sharks.

The Chiefs trailed 14-10 at the break at AJ Bell Stadium on Friday but ran in three second-half tries to claim a bonus-point victory.

Jacques Vermeulen, Stuart Hogg and Luke Cowan-Dickie all crossed as they maintained an eight-point lead over Bristol Bears.

Second-placed Bristol earned a 33-24 derby triumph over Gloucester, scoring 26 of their points in the first half.

The Bears had three tries in 17 minutes through Max Malins, Henry Purdy and Harry Thacker, with the clinical Semi Radradra's try sandwiched by efforts from Fraser Balmain and Chris Harris for Gloucester.

Billy Twelvetrees' penalty shortly after the second-half restart narrowed the gap to nine points but loan signing Ben Earl crossed for Bristol's fifth try to render Stephen Varney's score nine minutes from time a mere consolation.

Wasps leapfrogged Sale into third place as they scored 19 second-half points to overturn a 17-13 half-time deficit and defeat Worcester Warriors 32-17.

The boot of Rob Miller kept Wasps in touch in the opening 40 minutes and Gabriel Oghre, Alfie Barbeary Tom Cruse went over in a dominant second period.

Marcus Smith was sharp off the kicking tee as Harlequins beat Sale Sharks 16-10 on the return from lockdown of the Premiership.

The 21-year-old fly-half was impressive in all aspects but it was his three first-half penalties and the extras he added to Scott Baldwin's try that made the scoreboard difference at the Twickenham Stoop.

More than five months had passed since the last fixture in English rugby union's top flight before this game, but the 2019-20 season has finally resumed.

Harlequins, beaten last time out at Bristol, returned strongly and had too much for a second-placed Sale side who thumped London Irish 39-0 in their final game before the coronavirus-enforced lockdown halted the sport.

On this occasion, Sale grabbed the first try when Byron McGuigan broke through early in the second half, but Smith's penalties meant they still trailed.

Baldwin then took almost immediate advantage of Sale going down to 14 men after the sin-binning of Simon Hammersley to reassert the home team's command.

His try came after 56 minutes and swelled Harlequins' lead to 16-7, which was trimmed by an AJ MacGinty penalty with 10 minutes remaining but thereafter remained intact.

Eddie Jones has expressed delight at Manu Tuilagi's decision to stay in England and is not concerned that Owen Farrell will be playing in the Championship next season.

Tuilagi this week joined Sale Sharks on a deal until the end of next season after failing to agree terms to remain with Leicester Tigers.

The British and Irish Lion was linked with a move to France or a code swap, options which would have ended his England career.

Jones says the 29-year-old's switch to Sale is great news for the Rugby World Cup runners-up.

The England head coach said: "Manu made up his mind what he was going to do. We had a couple of phone calls, we kept in contact the whole time.

"I gave him a small piece of advice, but he knew what he wanted to do. He's a valuable Test player, his performance in the World Cup and Six Nations indicated there is still more in him and I'm delighted by his decision.

"It's obviously a difficult time for everyone at the moment and we are glad he's made that decision."

Farrell will not be on the move after committing his long-term future to Saracens, who are heading for the second tier due to persistent salary-cap breaches.

It was also revealed that Mako Vunipola, Elliot Daly and Jamie George will stay with Sarries this week and Jones says the European champions’ England contingent will be picked if they are performing well enough.

He said: "I'll be comfortable [picking Saracens players] if they're in good form. Players who have a track record of Test match success, I'll have a pretty good idea of where they are and where they need to be.

"My understanding is most of the younger guys at Saracens are moving to other clubs so they will not have the same issues that the older players have. 

"Without sounding too grandiose, if I look at Owen Farrell it doesn't matter what game he plays I've got a pretty good understanding of where he needs to be."

Sale Sharks have pulled off a major coup by signing England centre Manu Tuilagi.

Tuilagi, 29, had been linked with a move to France or a code switch to rugby league after failing to agree terms to extend his stay with Leicester Tigers.

The British and Irish Lion will be eligible to continue his England career, though, after joining Sale on a deal until the end of the 2020-21 season.

Tuilagi could end the 2019-20 campaign as a Premiership champion, with the Sharks second in the table as they prepare to return to action on August 14, more than five months since the coronavirus crisis brought the season to a halt.

Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond said: "We contacted Manu's agent and Leicester Tigers last week to discuss the player's current position.

"After discussions on Friday, all parties – Leicester Tigers, Manu Tuilagi and Sale Sharks – agreed that the player was a free agent and was able to enter into negotiations with another club.

"Manu will be a fantastic commercial and playing addition to our squad and I am looking forward to seeing him join up with the lads at Carrington this week."

Tuilagi's brother, Andy, spent three seasons with Sale from 2008 to 2011.

South African centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg has been fined £32,500 and handed a two-week ban after he was found to have signed contracts with both Sale Sharks and Gloucester.

Van Rensburg was a Lions player when he had a loan spell with Sale in the 2017-18 season, at which point he had already privately agreed to join Gloucester from November 2018.

However, on January 11, 2018 Van Rensburg signed a contract with Sale to play for the Sharks from July 1 of that year, clinching a lucrative three-year deal.

Evidence seen by a Rugby Football Union (RFU) disciplinary panel shows Van Rensburg later sent a WhatsApp message to Gloucester coach Johan Ackermann, in which the player suggests he had "messed up", believing a conversation they had at the turn of the year meant his Gloucester agreement could be broken.

"After we spoke, you said to me not to feel obliged to sign for Gloucester," Van Rensburg wrote. "Sale offered me a deal which I have agreed to. I am very stressed out over this."

Van Rensburg added in his message: "I'm really sorry and disappointed in myself. Their deal was at the time a lot better than Gloucester's deal which made it very attractive to me."

Sale withdrew their initial contract offer to Van Rensburg before he signed again with the Sharks in June 2018.

The RFU said £25,000 of the fine issued to Van Rensburg would be paid to Gloucester, who gave the player that sum when he agreed to join the Premiership club. The dates of his suspension will be announced when rugby, which is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, is able to continue.

Van Rensburg's representative Matthew Ginvert was reprimanded, fined £3,750 and told to undertake an agent's education programme. There was no evidence of him knowing about the existence of the Gloucester contract.

Sale received a £20,000 fine and a suspended five-point deduction.

Because of COVID-19, the RFU said the disciplinary case was held using video conferencing.

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