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Champions Cup under threat as EPCR wait on French government decision

The Top 14 clubs could be forced to withdraw from two rounds of games this month.

The Heineken Champions Cup trophy.
The Heineken Champions Cup trophy.
Image: Ryan Hiscott/INPHO

Updated Jan 8th 2021, 3:00 PM

EPCR IS WAITING on a decision from the French government as to whether Top 14 clubs will be able to fulfill two rounds of Champions Cup and Challenge Cup pool fixtures this month.

The European competitions would be hugely disrupted if the French clubs are forbidden from playing international games amidst the latest wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tournament organisers EPCR are standing by for a decision following a meeting yesterday with the French Ministries of Sport, Health and the Interior, as well as the LNR, which represents the Top 14 clubs. A representative for the office of French President Emmanuel Macron was also on the call.

The French government is understood to be concerned by Bayonne players testing positive for the so-called ‘UK strain’ of Covid-19 following their clash with Leicester Tigers last month. Bayonne have since had to shut down their club temporarily.

It’s unclear exactly what would happen with the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup if the French clubs were unable to play their scheduled fixtures this month on the weekends of 15/16/17 January and 22/23/24 January, but the entire tournament is now in doubt amidst the threat of the French clubs being unable to play this month.

If French clubs are unable to play cross-border fixtures, it would also bring into question the viability of the 2021 Six Nations, which is due to start in just four weeks’ time.

So far, ‘Match Result Resolution Committees’ have decided the outcomes of EPCR games cancelled due to Covid-19.

In recent days, EPCR has updated its Covid-19 testing protocols following an appeal from the LNR to do so, with all clubs now required to complete testing no earlier than three days before games, bringing the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup into adherence with new French government directives.

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However, EPCR must now wait on a French government decision following yesterday’s meeting.

“EPCR and the LNR participated in a meeting by video conference yesterday (Thursday) with representatives of the French government (Ministries of the Interior, Health and Sport, as well as the President’s Office),” reads an EPCR statement.

“The objective of the meeting was to present the revised COVID-19 protocol for the fixtures in Rounds 3 and 4 of the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.

“Updates to the protocol include the addition of PCR testing no earlier than three days before fixtures, in adherence to new French government directives.

“This change supplements the existing contact tracing, with all measures put in place to limit the risk of transmission and to allow the tournaments to proceed.

“EPCR expects to receive a decision from the French authorities shortly.” 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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