Connacht out-half Jack Carty scores against Leicester.

EPCR hoping Champions Cup games can proceed as planned this month

Work is underway to ensure travel exemptions will apply for participating clubs.

EPCR, THE ORGANISING body for the Champions Cup, is working with clubs to ensure that this month’s scheduled Round 3 and Round 4 pool games can go ahead as planned.

Last month, five Champions Cup Round 2 pool games were postponed due to French government restrictions on travel to and from the UK.

With further games involving the French clubs against UK-based sides on the calendar for this month, EPCR is hoping to avoid any further disruption.

Of course, Covid-19 also remains a major threat to the games. Last month, Leinster’s visit to Montpellier was cancelled and EPCR awarded the French club a 28-0 bonus-point win due to the Irish province’s growing number of Covid cases.

Leinster are due to return to action against Montpellier in Dublin in two weekends’ time, while Munster are set to travel to France to face Castres. Connacht are scheduled to host Leicester and Ulster are in line to visit Northampton.

The following weekend’s schedule sees Leinster visit Bath, Ulster host Clermont, Connacht travel to Stade Français, and Munster at home against Wasps.

While the French government restrictions don’t apply to Ireland, there has been great doubt over fixtures such as Wasps v Toulouse, La Rochelle v Bath, Bristol v Stade Français, Bordeaux v Scarlets, Clermont v Sale, Toulouse v Cardiff, Leicester v Bordeaux, Racing v Northampton, and Montpellier v Exeter.

EPCR also still has to confirm when the previously postponed Champions Cup fixtures will be played, with early indications last month having suggested that the organisers could alter the format of the competition.

While the round-of-16 is currently due to be played on a home-and-away basis over two legs, that could be reduced to one knockout game in order to make space for the postponed pool games.

All in all, there remains much uncertainty around European rugby. Attendance restrictions continue to apply in Ireland and France, with a limit of 5,000 fans in outdoor venues in both countries.

But EPCR hopes that the Round 3 and Round 4 pool fixtures scheduled for this month can proceed as planned.

“EPCR is continuing to work with the leagues and unions to obtain assurances that travel exemptions for players, club staff and match officials will be in place for matches in Rounds 3 and 4 of the Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup,” said an EPCR spokesperson this afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Six Nations will hope to see restrictions on attendances lifted before the start of the 2022 championship on 5 February.

The first weekend involves Ireland hosting Wales in Dublin, while France welcome Italy to Paris, and Scotland entertain England in Edinburgh.

The IRFU and the other national unions will be desperate for attendance restrictions to be lifted in time for their home games, with large crowds essential to the finances of the sport.

Ireland have further home games against Italy on 27 February and Scotland on 19 March.

The limit on 5,000 fans at sporting venues in Ireland is currently due to be in place until 30 January.

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