OXFORD United players are being encouraged to get a Covid vaccine as 12 members of the first-team squad self-isolate due to the virus.

The U’s have had to alter their pre-season plans following three positive tests within their ranks, which have caused a further nine players to self-isolate as a precaution.

The Covid cases hit United days after reports that more than a third of 18 to 29-year-olds in England were yet to receive their first vaccine.

Read also: Karl Robinson outlines Oxford United's response to Covid outbreak

Head coach Karl Robinson is already double-jabbed and revealed it was a conversation the club were having with players.

He said: “It’s something we’re speaking to the players about.

“Ethically, we’ll never tell somebody they have to have their jab.

“We appreciate that people have the ability to take it or not and my players are within their rights to make their own decisions.”

The outbreak at United came in the week the final set of social distancing restrictions were lifted in England, despite rising cases and hundreds of thousands of people being forced to isolate.

From August 16, though, that rule will not apply to fully-vaccinated close contacts, unless they then test positive.

Robinson added: “When the regulations change, if you’re in that group you don’t have to isolate.

“They have to think about that as well.

“We’re on top of it, but I could go down on the first day of the season – you just have to accept that right now.”

Sam Long, Elliott Moore, Luke McNally, Alex Gorrin, Marcus McGuane, Cameron Brannagan, Anthony Forde, Leon Chambers-Parillon, Ryan Williams, Billy Bodin, Sam Winnall and Dan Agyei all missed Tuesday’s friendly victory over Hayes & Yeading United, as Robinson fielded a younger line-up than planned.

Match report: Young Oxford United beat Banbury United

Last night’s fixture at Banbury United went ahead with an inexperienced side in action, but Saturday’s visit to Birmingham City is off.

The health of players and staff is the priority, but United know their Sky Bet League One opener at Cambridge United is just 16 days away.

The isolation period will be long finished, however Robinson knows the U’s cannot slip up.

He said: “Ten of them are back (from isolation) on Wednesday.

“It dates back to when we were last together, which was the Saturday (for the Salford City friendly).

“The difference is if some of them catch it down the line.

“We have to be incredibly careful, but this is just another challenge.”