Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Champions Cup games set to proceed as planned this month, says EPCR

French government travel exemptions will apply to clubs and match officials from the UK.

EPCR SAYS THAT this month’s European club rugby fixtures are set to proceed as planned thanks to the French government providing exemptions that apply to games involving travel between the UK and France.

Last month, five Champions Cup games and two Challenge Cup games between French and UK teams were postponed after the French government imposed tough restrictions on travel to and from the UK.

However, EPCR – the organiser of both competitions – has said today that it has been informed that travel exemptions for the “pursuit of an economic activity” will apply to clubs and match officials involved in the European games.

The news comes as a relief after there were doubts over the viability of Round 3 and Round 4 of the pool stages of the European competitions.

There is still the threat of Covid-19, of course. Leinster’s clash with Montpellier in France last month was one of the games affected in this regard so far this season, with the Top 14 side handed a 28-0 bonus-point win after that cancellation in December.

Leinster are due to host Montpellier in Dublin in two weekends’ time but the French club are now going through their own Covid outbreak and their Top 14 clash with Toulouse this weekend is in major doubt.

However, EPCR has told clubs to proceed with their planning for European action on the weekends of 14/15/16 January and 21/22/23 January.

The European rugby organisers have also said that “discussions are ongoing” with regard to rescheduling the games that were postponed in the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup last month.

Munster are due to travel to France to take on Castres in the Champions Cup on Friday 14 January, while Connacht host Leicester the following day and Leinster hope to face Montpellier. Ulster are away to Northampton on 16 January.

The Champions Cup schedule then sees Leinster away to Bath on Saturday 22 January, the same day Ulster host Clermont. Munster are due to be at home against Wasps on Sunday 23 January, as Connacht visit Stade Français.

“Following dialogue with the leagues and unions, EPCR has been informed that exemptions for what is termed the “pursuit of an economic activity” which have been put in place by the French government will apply to clubs and match officials who are travelling between France and the UK,” reads an EPCR statement.

“Further information will also be sought from the French authorities regarding possible new conditions which may be applicable to travel between France and the UK.

“While recognising that these are particularly challenging times for all its stakeholders, EPCR will continue to work with the leagues and unions so that this month’s matches can be played safely.

“The leading eight Heineken Champions Cup clubs from each of the pools will qualify for the knockout stage, and with 10 clubs progressing to the Challenge Cup Round of 16, plus a further six qualifiers from the Heineken Champions Cup ahead of the Marseille finals next May, EPCR is optimistic that this season’s tournaments will be played to a successful conclusion.

“In addition, discussions are ongoing regarding the five Heineken Champions Cup and two Challenge Cup Round 2 fixtures which were postponed due to unforeseen circumstances arising from changes to border controls between France and the UK.”

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