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Cancellations mean Leinster and Munster set to go straight to knockout rugby

The remaining games in the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup group stage have been cancelled due to coronavirus concerns.

Munster could be looking at a Clermont reunion.
Munster could be looking at a Clermont reunion.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

LEINSTER AND MUNSTER have effectively progressed straight into the last 16 of this season’s European Champions Cup after it was confirmed today that Europe’s final two rounds of group matches will be cancelled.

That means that the Champions and Challenge Cups are almost certain to move straight into the knockout phase.

The French government has blocked the Top 14 clubs from competing in cross-border competition this month due to its fears over the UK strain of coronavirus, which has sent the number of cases in England soaring.

The remaining two pool rounds were initially postponed but English Premier Rugby’s chief executive Darren Childs says they have now been abandoned because of the lack of space in an already full schedule.

Tournament organisers EPCR will decide within the fortnight what format the competitions should take, with a knockout phase launched by a round of 16 the likely option.

If so, Leinster and Munster will both have home ties – Leinster most likely against either Sale or Gloucester; Munster at home to either Scarlets or Clermont. Ulster and Connacht are likely to go into the Challenge Cup at the round of 16 stage.


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“The decision was made very quickly by the executive at EPCR that we would not try to reschedule those games,” Childs said.

“We have a tough season. There’s no space at the end of the season because of the Lions and we have no spare weekends in our season once we resume.

“To play European rounds when the Lions is taking place would have been very damaging to the European tournament. So it was decided very quickly by all three leagues CEOs that we would complete the tournament in the four remaining weekends.

“Everyone is managing their domestic and international calendars to the best of their ability. The exact structure has not been agreed and we’ve already started those discussions.”

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