EPCR confirms suspension of Champions Cup and Challenge Cup

A directive from the French government meant Top 14 clubs couldn’t play this month.

The Champions Cup trophy.
The Champions Cup trophy.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

EPCR HAS OFFICIALLY confirmed the suspension of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.

Pool games in the European competitions were scheduled to be played over the next two weekends, but EPCR has had to suspend them after a directive from French authorities that Top 14 clubs should not take part amid the latest severe wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

EPCR said it had “no choice” but to temporarily suspend the competitions due to that French directive.

An official statement says EPCR will now work with the clubs and unions to “find a solution which will enable it to resume and complete the tournaments as soon as practicable.”

That will almost certainly involve a change to the format of the competitions later this year. 

The French government’s intervention in their Top 14 clubs playing European competition has raised fears over the viability of the 2021 Six Nations, which is due to get underway in just four weekends’ time.

Six Nations organisers are set to meet with the French authorities tomorrow and remain optimistic that the championship will go ahead as currently scheduled.

For now, it is likely that the Guinness Pro14 will do its best to reschedule postponed fixtures for the newly-available next two weekends.

It is expected that Munster will host Leinster at Thomond Park in the next fortnight in a game that could involve both provinces’ full-strength teams.

Meanwhile, EPCR will work towards resuming the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup later this season.

“Following a directive from the French authorities that the participation of Top 14 clubs in the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup at the current time constitutes too great a public health risk, EPCR has no choice but to announce today (Monday, 11 January) that the 2020/21 tournaments are temporarily suspended,” reads an EPCR statement.

“EPCR and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby took part in a meeting by audio conference last week with representatives of the French ministries of the Interior, Health and Sport, as well as of the President’s office.

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“Notable updates to EPCR’s Covid-19 protocols were presented to the French authorities, including the addition of PCR tests no earlier than three days before matches in the tournaments, conforming to French government guidelines and supplementing the existing, meticulous contact tracing measures put in place with a view to limiting the risk of transmission.

“Against the backdrop of the recent detection of a new strain of coronavirus, the French government has directed that French clubs postpone their participation in EPCR’s tournaments for the month of January, both for matches scheduled in France and for those due to be played in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

“On the basis of this directive, EPCR had no choice but to temporarily suspend the pool stage of the Heineken Champions Cup and the preliminary stage of the Challenge Cup.

“While respecting all further directives by governments and local authorities, and prioritising the health and welfare of players and club staff, EPCR, in conjunction with its shareholder leagues and unions, remains committed to trying to find a solution which will enable it to resume and complete the tournaments as soon as practicable.

“EPCR will be making no further comment at the present time.”

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Murray Kinsella

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