It has been a busy season of Autumn internationals for the England rugby team at Twickenham. The return of 80,000+ crowds to both the stadium and local streets gave the impression of a return to normality and a sense that we might have turned a corner at long last.

The virus had other ideas.

The last match of the series was intended to be a demonstration of flowing rugby as the Barbarians (an elite team of international-standard players who are invited to join for specific matches) took on Samoa. The fearsome Samoan haka (or Siva Tau) was to be perfomed and both teams were preparing for play yet just 90 minutes before the planned start of the match, 4 of the Barbarian players and two of their back-room staff tested positive for Covid and the match was cancelled.

Distraught at being denied the opportunity to play at the home of rugby, the Samoan team took to the pitch to sing their national anthem and perform the Siva Tau to rows of empty seats. Some of the players were reported to be in tears. It was another blow to the Barbarians too, in December 2020 their last match at Twickenham was cancelled when 13 of their players breached their Covid protocols.

The women’s Barbarians’ match against South Africa that had been due to kick off after the men’s match had finished was moved up to take their kick off slot enabling them to a set a new world record for the crowd for a Women‘s rugby match of 29,581. Every cloud has a silver lining!