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.

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.

Bristol Bears boosted their chances of making the Premiership's play-offs with a 40-3 victory over Leicester Tigers on Wednesday.

The Bears ran in six tries at Ashton Gate to claim a bonus-point win that moved them level on points with fourth-placed Sale Sharks ahead of the final round of matches.

Four teams will make the play-offs and just two points separate Wasps in second and Bristol in fifth.

Leaders Exeter are the only team that have confirmed their play-off berth and a much-changed Chiefs team was beaten 22-19 by London Irish, who ended a run of nine successive losses with the win.

Elsewhere, Francois Hougaard crossed twice as Worcester Warriors beat already relegated Saracens 40-27 in an entertaining affair.

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.

Premiership leaders Exeter Chiefs extended their winning run to six matches on Friday, while Bristol Bears climbed to second.

Exeter are comfortably clear at the top of the table and have won every game they have played since the season restarted last month.

They were made to work for this latest triumph, though, edging past Northampton Saints 22-19.

The Chiefs made a fast start with tries from Sean Lonsdale and Jannes Kirsten in the first 12 minutes but trailed heading into the closing stages.

David Ribbans' double either side of a Henry Taylor score had Northampton in front, only for Tom O'Flaherty to force his way over and clinch the points.

Bristol were rather more comfortable in their 36-13 win over Worcester Warriors, their first at Sixways for more than 14 years.

A four-try second-half display eased the Bears to a big victory, which saw Worcester finish with 14 men after Andrew Kitchener was sent off for a punch in a last-minute melee.

Sam Simmonds and Jonny Hill scored hat-tricks as Premiership leaders Exeter Chiefs routed Worcester 59-7 to go 14 points clear at the top.

The home team were at their formidable best, with Worcester's consolation try from Ashley Beck the last score of the game.

By half-time the lead was up to 38-0, with second-row forward Hill having already completed a hat-trick and Simmonds dotting down twice.

Jack Nowell also got in on the act before the break, and the rampant scoring continued beyond the interval, with Stuart Hogg, Jacques Vermeulen and Simmonds going over.

Joe Simmonds almost matched his brother's 15-point haul, falling one short as he booted seven conversions.

At Kingsholm, Ollie Thorley went one better than the hat-trick feats of Simmonds and Hill, plundering four tries in the opening 30 minutes of Gloucester's 46-30 win over Leicester Tigers.

The 23-year-old winger did his England prospects no harm, having already caught the eye of Eddie Jones, by showing a clinical finisher's touch.

Joe Simpson, Chris Harris and Lloyd Evans also crossed for Gloucester, with tries from Harry Potter, Jordan Taufua and Cameron Henderson leading a forlorn Tigers fightback after the home team's early onslaught.

Chris Robshaw and Chris Ashton were among the home team's scorers as Harlequins beat Northampton Saints 30-17 at Twickenham Stoop, in a mid-table battle.

Bath climbed up to fourth in the Premiership table after beating Northampton Saints for their third successive win since the season restarted.

The score was 3-3 at the interval but second-half tries from Tom de Glanville and Ruaridh McConnochie earned Bath an 18-3 victory.

While Bath's winning run continued, Worcester Warriors tasted victory for the first time in 2020, beating Harlequins 29-14.

Worcester scored four tries, while Duncan Weir added three conversions and a penalty, to boost the Warriors' morale and end an eight-game losing streak ahead of a clash with top-of-the-table Exeter Chiefs.

Tom Woolstencroft scored a hat-trick for already-relegated Saracens in their 36-20 triumph over Gloucester, while England's George Ford kicked eight points and David Williams went in for a first-half try in Leicester Tigers' narrow 13-7 success over London Irish.

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.

Exeter Chiefs went eight points clear at the top of the Premiership with a 26-13 bonus-point win over Leicester Tigers and Bristol Bears beat Saracens to move into second spot on Saturday.

Sale Sharks' defeat to Harlequins on Friday in the first match in the competition for five months due to the coronavirus crisis gave the Chiefs the chance to increase their lead at the summit.

Rob Baxter's men grasped that opportunity at Sandy Park, Dave Ewers and Stuart Hogg scoring first-half tries to give the leaders a 10-6 lead at the break after a George Ford drop-goal and penalty put the Tigers 6-0 up.

Luke Cowan-Dickie went over early in the second half before Exeter were awarded a penalty try, with the Tigers unable to mount an unlikely fightback after earning a penalty try of their own.

Ambitious Bristol left it late to see off already-relegated defending champions Saracens 16-12 at Ashton Gate.

A fourth Alex Goode penalty following three from Callum Sheedy gave Sarries the edge, but Bristol - who handed debuts to Semi Radradra and Kyle Sinckler - won it with a penalty try, which also resulted in Jamie George being sin-binned.

New signing Ben Spencer was among the Bath try-scorers and Tom Dunn grabbed a double in a 34-17 win over London Irish.

Jonny May's second Gloucester debut was cut short by a dangerous tackle from Melani Nanai, who was shown a red card midway through the first half and could only watch the Cherry and Whites cruise to a 44-15 victory in their first game with a revamped coaching staff.

Michael Fatialofa has opened up on his "traumatising" experience in intensive care and described suffering his serious spine injury as "pretty scary".

The Worcester Warriors lock sustained a fracture in his C4 vertebrae as well as a spinal contusion, a condition which causes compression on the spine, during the Premiership encounter with Saracens on January 4.

Fatialofa spent four weeks at St Mary's Hospital in London, three of those in intensive care, before being transferred to a specialist spinal clinic at the Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital.

Last month, his wife Tatiana posted a video on Instagram of Fatialofa walking unaided, which she described as "a miracle".

In an interview with 1 NEWS, Fatialofa spoke about those life-changing events.

"I wasn't even trying to be a hero or anything. I think it was just the perfect mix - my head was in a bad position. His hip was there and it was just one of those things," he said.

"From my neck down, I couldn't feel anything or move anything.

"It was pretty scary and I was really short of breath because ... the spinal cord was compressed and anything below the spinal cord is affected, and that includes my lungs, and I was just kind of trying to breathe."

On being in intensive care, he added: "It's a time that's tough to think about.

"My room-mates were victims of gun violence and stabbings and I could hear everything going on. Just all the beeping and no sleep. It's something I don't really like thinking about now that I'm past it.

"I heard some people die next to me. It was quite traumatising. All I could hear was a beeper go off, everyone rush in and then I have a new room-mate the next day."

Michael Fatialofa has walked unaided as he continues to recover from the serious injury he suffered in January, with his wife claiming it is a "miracle". 

The Worcester Warriors lock sustained the spinal injury during a Premiership match against Saracens on January 4 and spent four weeks at St Mary's Hospital in London, with three weeks of those in intensive care.

After being transferred to a specialist spinal clinic at the Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital, Fatialofa took his first steps back to recovery in February, posting a video to Instagram that showed the 27-year-old lifting his legs without support and taking steps with the aid of staff.

Now, Fatialofa has continued his rehabilitation as he walked without assistance in a video shared by his wife Tatiana on Instagram.

"You're witnessing a miracle that even medical professionals can't explain," she said.

"They are so shook by his progress given his critical level of injury.

"He was literally paralysed from the neck down just 10 weeks ago and currently spinal cord injuries do not have a clinical cure, but my amazing husband is proof that God is never limited to human wisdom. So, so, so thankful."

Fatialofa was diagnosed with a spinal concussion and had surgery to relieve pressure on the spinal cord.

Though Fatialofa continues to make progress, the coronavirus outbreak – which has caused the suspension of the Premiership season until at least April 14 – means visiting hours will be reduced.

"We've been advised by the hospital that visiting probably will be reduced to only one hour soon and while I understand completely it's still so hard on the heart," his wife added.

Players from Wasps, Worcester Warriors and Gloucester have taken a 25 per cent pay cut due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Premiership season was suspended on Monday for five weeks due to COVID-19.

With a loss of revenue as a result of no games being played, Wasps have lowered wages by a quarter from April 1 until Premiership action resumes, though a number of lower paid staff will be excluded from the reductions.

"I spoke with [head coach] Lee Blackett and senior members of the playing squad last night, and we then communicated this message to the wider team and colleagues," Wasps CEO Stephen Vaughan said in an open letter to fans, partners, staff and the community.

"I could not be more proud of their response, understanding and determination to help the club in such testing times. The same is true of the players' efforts to support our wider community stay connected and keep talking, which I am sure you will be aware of."

Worcester have lowered wages by the same margin, also effective from the start of next month. The cut will not apply to staff below a certain salary threshold, though.

"We have offered as much support as we can to any member of staff who may suffer particular hardship as a consequence," the Warriors added in a statement on the club's website.

Gloucester confirmed they have taken the move amid the global pandemic to help them through "this incredibly challenging time".

Meanwhile, the Rugby Football Union on Friday confirmed the season is over for all levels below the Premiership.

Sale Sharks ran in six tries as they thrashed London Irish 39-0 to edge ahead of Exeter Chiefs at the top of the Premiership.

Sam James grabbed a double, scoring in each half, while Luke James, Rob Webber, Denny Solomona and Byron McGuigan piled on the five-pointers for Steve Diamond's team.

Webber's try came on his 100th appearance for the Sharks.

McGuigan dotted down a fine try at the death to put the seal on a highly successful outing for the home side, who climbed ahead of Exeter on points difference but have played an extra game.

Exeter will have the chance to re-establish themselves as front-runners when they host Bath on Saturday. London Irish remain eighth in the table.

Northampton Saints halted a four-match losing skid as they won 16-10 on the road against Worcester Warriors.

Mikey Haywood's 32nd-minute try and 11 points from the boot of James Grayson gave Northampton a welcome victory, with Ollie Lawrence notching a converted score for the hosts.

Northampton's win nudged them ahead of Bristol Bears and up to third in the table, five points behind the top two, while Worcester stay 10th, just ahead of second-bottom Leicester Tigers.

Tom Hendrickson grabbed two tries as rampant Exeter beat Northampton 57-7 to pull eight points clear at the top of the Premiership.

Northampton arrived at Sandy Park with their hopes of being involved in a battle for first place possibly hinging on the outcome, and the thumping nature of their defeat was painful for Saints.

Hosts Exeter could not breach the try-line in the opening half-hour, having just a penalty from Joe Simmonds to show for their initial endeavours.

Jonny Hill, Elvis Taione and Jannes Kirsten then crossed in quick succession to put the Chiefs in charge by the break, building a 22-0 lead after taking advantage of a yellow card for Tom Collins.

Hendrickson went over twice in the second half, with Ben Moon, Tom O'Flaherty and Sam Simmonds taking the home side's try count to eight.

James Grayson dotted down a consolation for Northampton, who now sit fourth, nine points adrift of Exeter, with their points difference having taken a battering.

Bristol jumped above Northampton into third place after a 13-10 home win over Worcester.

Eight points from the boot of Callum Sheedy and a Luke Morahan try gave the Bears their narrow win.

Nick David's try early in the second half for Warriors, converted by Duncan Weir, and a penalty from Scott van Breda kept it tight.

However, Sheedy's second penalty of the game in the 69th minute proved to be the match-winner, leaving Worcester down in 10th place.

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