The Scarlets say there would be health and safety issues going into their Champions Cup opener against Bristol on the back of 10 days of hotel quarantine in Belfast.

They are now calling on the Welsh government to help them switch to a base back home where they can train and prepare for the game while still isolating.

The 50-strong travelling party are currently in a Belfast hotel, having flown into Dublin from South Africa, which they left due to concerns over the new Omicron variant of Covid-19.

There was no quarantine accommodation available in Wales and they may yet have to stay in Ulster for the full 10 days of their mandatory quarantine period, up until Wednesday, December 8.

That would raise major issues in terms of fulfilling their Euro clash with Bristol at Ashton Gate on Saturday, December 11.

“Time is ticking,” said chairman Simon Muderack, speaking on BBC Radio Wales.

“The reality is we haven’t played a game of rugby as a team for quite some time.

“Our last game would have been at the end of October and here we are essentially into December.

“Every day that the boys spend in quarantine, they are de-conditioning, so we are starting to get to a point, if we are not already there, were there are some personal health and safety issues.

“You have got a bunch of boys who haven’t played rugby for six weeks who may well be confined to a hotel in quarantine for 10 days going up against a set of finely tuned athletes who have not skipped a beat in terms of game-time preparation, nutrition, access to sunlight and being able to spend time at home decompressing with their families.

“So there are a set of challenges there that we can’t ignore.”

The Scarlets were originally due to fly into Dublin along with Cardiff, Munster and Zebre, who were all out in South Africa for two rounds of United Rugby Championship matches which were cancelled after the country was put on the UK red list due to concerns over the new strain.

But Cardiff and Munster were unable to leave due to positive Covid cases, with one of the two Cardiff positives suspected to be Omicron.

So they have remained in Cape Town, while the Scarlets flew out with Zebre, still heading for Ireland.

“Within the time frames that we had, there wasn’t an option in Wales,” explained Muderack.

“We worked with the Irish government, alongside Munster, to get clearance for the plane to fly into Dublin.

“We then worked with the UK and Welsh government on the different options once we got the boys into Europe, how we could then get them into the UK and accommodate them initially in a quarantine programme.

“We did not have access to a quarantine hotel in Wales. Belfast was the location within the UK that we were able to access.

“We have obviously got 50 people and the system in the UK is under a bit of stress, I would imagine, with planes now being able to land.

“So for us it was quite simply, in the limited amount of time we had, where could we find a location that could accommodate en bloc and Belfast was the answer to that.

“Logically, with the plane flying into Dublin, geographically it was a relatively convenient solution.

“The squad landed in Dublin just after 1am this morning (Monday). They were able then to secure transit up to Belfast.

“At about 5.30am this morning they were checking in at a quarantine hotel up in Belfast.

“They are into that programme and we will now work through what potential options there might be beyond that.”

Asked about the cost of putting 50 people up in a hotel for 10 days, Muderack said: “Without doubt, it’s a burden, but clearly the number one issue is a people issue.

“Number two is money and I can’t be glib about that.

“We still need to tally up. The league and the WRU have been very supportive.

“We are all committed to do the right thing by our people and make the numbers work, somehow or other, after the fact.”

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As for the cancellation of the URC games out in South Africa, Muderack said: "As I understand it, it was due to the grave concern about this new variant of the virus.

“That was the decision that was made.

“They were fixtures we were absolutely looking forward to playing in and it’s not the outcome anyone wanted.

“But the rugby family appreciates people always come first and rugby second, as much as the game means to us all.”

Meanwhile, Scarlets director Ron Jones is urging the Welsh government to help the squad get home and prepare for the Bristol game.

“Many elite sports teams in England and Ireland have been allowed to quarantine as a group with training facilities,” he said.

“My understanding is if Munster had been able to travel, they would have gone to Limerick where they would have had some form of quarantine which would have also permitted them to train.

“It’s up to Welsh Government now to agree the same for the Scarlets.

“Let’s get them home to Wales so they can prepare to represent Wales in the European Cup, which is an important competition.

“I don’t see any reason why we can’t find a solution in Wales.

“Our initial thought was why couldn’t we put Cardiff and Scarlets together at the Vale.

“We have a series of alternatives. Because of the way Parc y Scarlets is configured, you could actually create a bubble there.

“Even if we ended up there or at a local hotel, we would be able to provide satisfactory quarantine.”

Echoing Muderack in terms of the Bristol game, Jones told WalesOnline: “I wouldn’t feel comfortable for the safety of our players to play a professional match at that sort of level after two weeks with no physical conditioning.

“You know how brutal the game is now at top level rugby.”

Giving his thoughts on Cardiff’s plight, Jones said: “They are in an even worse position. They must not be abandoned either.

“Welsh Government must provide whatever help it can to get them home safely as soon as possible.

“If we win our argument, potentially when Cardiff come back they can go into a training environment at least.

“The idea of them spending 10 days in isolation in South Africa, plus another 10 in hotel quarantine in the UK, plus travel time, that’s not right. They deserve better than that.”