Scarlets have announced that the club has forfeited Saturday's round one Heineken Champions Cup match against Bristol Bears due to a lack of players.
The majority of the Scarlets squad is in quarantine in Belfast after returning from South Africa following the emergence of the Omicron Covid variant.
They leave isolation on Friday, a day before the game in question but player welfare concerns and complications surrounding borrowing players have led to the decision.
Players have been confined to their rooms with limited outdoor time each day and without being able to train as a group.
Scarlets are disappointed to announce that we have forfeited Saturday's @ChampionsCup round one match against @BristolBears due to player welfare concerns and the club’s inability to safely field a match-day squad
Full story ▶️ https://t.co/E1SLH2Jo3i
— Scarlets Rugby (@scarlets_rugby) December 7, 2021
Scarlets say they have only 14 fit players in training at Parc y Scarlets – seven senior players and seven development players.
"It is a decision we haven’t taken lightly," said Scarlets Executive Chairman Simon Muderack.
"This is a great fixture between two great clubs, which supporters, players and staff on both sides were all looking forward to.
"Ultimately, though, the welfare of our players has to be our priority and following discussions with our staff it was felt that there was too much risk to ask the players currently in quarantine to play a game of this magnitude and intensity just a day after coming out of quarantine.
"You have to remember, the squad have been in isolation since the news of this Omicron variant first emerged when they were still in Durban so it will be something like 15 days in all.
"Also, a lot of the players haven’t played since the Benetton game on October 22. As a club we have a duty of care to our players.
"With only 14 squad members training at the Parc, half of them young development players, we did look into the possibility of registering players from other regions and we have been grateful for the positive response from Ospreys and Dragons.
"But, any players we did loan would effectively be ‘cup-tied’ which has made that option a challenge as well.
"With the integrity of the competition in mind, we felt we were unable to put together a match-day 23 that would safely be able to take the field against the Bears.
"We are all disappointed. I know a lot of fans had booked accommodation in Bristol and have been looking forward to this game for some time.
"But I am sure everyone will understand the situation we have found ourselves in through no fault of our own.
"I would also like to stress that we have returned no positive Covid-19 cases in all the rounds of PCR testing prior to leaving and since arriving in South Africa and Northern Ireland.
"We would like to thank everyone at Bristol Bears and EPCR for their understanding of our predicament and look forward to welcoming Pat Lam and his side to Parc y Scarlets for the return fixture in January.”
Under competition rules, Bristol will be awarded a 28-0 win and five match points. Scarlets are due to host Bordeaux-Begles on Sunday, December 19th.
The EPCR have been informed by Scarlets and acknowledged in a statement that "Scarlets, Bristol Bears and EPCR used their best endeavours to stage the match, however, this has not been possible and it is regrettable that the fixture is now cancelled."