Ronnie O’Sullivan has withdrawn from Championship League Snooker in Milton Keynes due to Covid concerns.
The reigning and six-time World Champion was due to compete in the ranking event at the Marshall Arena on Monday October 5 but has now decided to opt out.
O’Sullivan did not wish to stay within the on-site ‘bubble’, which sees players undergo Covid-19 testing on arrival before self-isolating for 24 hours.
He will now be replaced in Monday’s group by John Astley – who joins China’s Li Hang, Malta’s Alex Borg and Ukraine’s Iulian Boiko.
O’Sullivan’s spot had been offered to Lei Peifan, who was the next highest ranked player on the Q School Order of Merit, but the Chinese cueist decided to leave the event after returning an invalid test result followed by a negative one last week.
O’Sullivan, who triumphed at The Crucible in August, began the new season at the same venue last week, suffering a shock Second Round exit to 18-year-old debutant Aaron Hill in the European Masters.
His next tournament appearance is now scheduled to be the English Open, which takes place at the Marshall Arena from October 12-18.
The Rocket has been drawn to face French debutant Brian Ochoiski in the First Round.
Earlier in the week, Daniel Wells was withdrawn from the Championship League after returning a positive test for Covid-19.
It was revealed on Sunday that WST Chairman Barry Hearn has also tested positive, though both are showing no symptoms and are now self-isolating.