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Bath chairman claims postponed Champions Cup clash with Toulon 'can't happen'

“There are simply no free weekends available between now and the end of the season.”

File photo: Bruce Craig stands with Ian McGeechan in 2010.
File photo: Bruce Craig stands with Ian McGeechan in 2010.
Image: Mike Egerton

BRUCE CRAIG, THE millionaire owner and chairman of Bath Rugby, says that his club’s postponed Champions Cup match against Toulon ‘can’t be played.

The Pool 5 match was the last of five European rugby fixtures in France to be postponed by EPCR in the wake of the Friday the 13th terrorist attacks in Paris.

Ulster, Oyonnax, Racing Metro, Glasgow Warriors, Bordeaux and Clermont are all in the same boat as Leinster’s Pool 5 rivals, but Bath are the only Premiership club impacted. Speaking to the Telegraph, Craig could not envision a scenario where domestic fixtures are moved to suit the European game.

“There are simply no free weekends available between now and the end of the season,” Craig told The Telegraph.

“It is unacceptable that the international calendar does not take into account the domestic game. We are playing matches right through the 2016 Six Nations championship to get everything fitted in. There are 33 weekends all accounted for and no slack.”

Craig, a member of the EPCR board, added:

“It is very clear to me that the Toulon match can’t happen.”

The midweek option is not an option to my mind as that would be to the detriment of player welfare as well as the integrity of two competitions, an important Champions Cup game being squeezed in with all the attendant travel issues between two Premiership weekends.”

Instead of playing the game, Craig’s suggestion would appear to involve applying a mathematical formula used in French amateur leagues to dole out points for non-played fixtures based on their existing results in the competition.

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In the Pro12, the existing calendar is also fully-booked as the governing bodies attempted to minimise fixtures during the Rugby World Cup. So the next weekend free of domestic fixtures is the opening week of the Six Nations Championship.

Rugby Union - Aviva Premiership Final - Bath Rugby v Saracens - Twickenham Source: David Davies

All parties will at least agree that it would be preferable to have any rescheduled fixtures played in January, before the completion of the Champions and Challenge Cup pool stage. The Christmas period provides a further difficult hurdle to plan around, and so that would make the weekend of 8 January, the earliest realistic opportunity to play the games.

There are full programmes of fixtures in the Pro12, Top14 and Premiership on that weekend. However, that includes Pau v Castres (the fixture postponed in the Challenge Cup this weekend) and a match between two more of the impacted teams.

So surely between now and June a new date could be easily found for the domestic clashes of: Pau v Castres, Bordeaux v Toulon, Ulster v Dragons, Newcastle v Bath, Clermont v Toulouse, Oyonnax v Agen and Montpelier v Racing.

Postpone seven games in a competition with six months to run in order to play five matches in a tournament three weeks from the end of its pool stage — seems a little fairer than dividing the points up on paper.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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