Billy Stickland/INPHO Leinster hope their Montpellier game is rescheduled.

Leinster call for 'common sense' with rescheduling of Montpellier game

Leo Cullen is still hopeful the cancelled game will be refixed for a later date.

LAST UPDATE | Dec 29th 2021, 3:00 PM

LEINSTER ARE CALLING for “common sense” to prevail as they hope their cancelled Montpellier game in the Champions Cup will be rescheduled for later this season.

EPCR decided to award a 28-0 bonus-point win to Montpellier when the game was cancelled earlier this month, citing the fact that Leinster had a higher number and more recent positive Covid-19 cases in their squad. Montpellier had also reported a handful of positive cases.

Leinster were angry with the decision after their Covid-free matchday squad had been given Public Health Ireland clearance to fly out to France and fulfill the fixture.

Their anger was heightened the following day when five Champions Cup fixtures involving French teams were postponed after the French government toughened its restrictions on travel to and from the UK.

Leinster have since had their St Stephen’s Day meeting with Munster in the United Rugby Championship postponed due to their Covid outbreak growing, but some of the squad returned to training yesterday and Leinster hope to face Ulster in the URC on new Year’s Day, although the game remains in doubt.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen is hoping that EPCR will reschedule his side’s clash with Montpellier for a later date, overturning the 28-0 decision.

“Our game was due to be on the Friday, we were one of the first teams up and we knew we had some cases,” explained Cullen of how the situation unfolded.

“We had a meeting with EPCR on the Wednesday and we had expressed some concerns about the game because you could see the situation, this is not just internally, but everywhere and how things were changing quite quickly.

“A lot of our players had seen the Munster situation and the other URC teams getting stuck in South Africa. Going to France, the players had to sign a form about being spot-tested basically in France and if you were to show a positive test, they would stay there for 10 days and isolate so there was a lot of concern about getting stuck in France.

leo-cullen Ryan Byrne / INPHO Cullen is among those still isolating. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“Then you hear the following day as it played out, we did our team run and shifted our flight to the Friday, etc… the message for us was to crack on with the group we had and that’s obviously what we did.

“Then on the Thursday, when the game gets called, that’s slightly before – you’re down to hours now – where again things are changing and there’s a whole block of games now getting rearranged.

“You hope that common sense will prevail and that people who have had games cancelled get an opportunity to play them. The good thing is that there are still seven weekends of European action left, so how Europe goes about reconfiguring the tournament, we’ll wait and see.

“They’re working away in the background, I believe, but you’d hope that some level of common sense will prevail and everyone gets a fair crack at trying to play the games because at the end of the day, Covid is going to hit everyone at various different stages, particularly with this variant.

“You see across the Top 14, URC, Premiership – everyone is having games not being played over the course of the last few weekends. It really just depends when it hits, rather than if it hits. Everyone is going to be affected at some point, so that would be the hope.”

While Cullen himself is among the Leinster staff and players still in isolation after positive Covid tests or being identified as close contacts of positive cases, the province hoped to drive on with preparation for Saturday’s clash with Ulster.

A “good chunk” of their squad resumed training yesterday under senior coach Stuart Lancaster, with Leinster hoping that yesterday’s testing would clear more players to return.

The recent upheaval means Leinster have torn up their best-laid plans around player selection, but Cullen indicated that the recent period has at least allowed the likes of Johnny Sexton and Jack Conan to fully overcome injury issues.

“They’re all good, yeah,” said Cullen, who is due to be out of isolation before Saturday. “That’s the good thing in terms of fitness and availability – when we don’t play rugby it’s very good for your availability!

“So we’ve only got three or four guys on the injury list. The Covid piece is a moving part so it’s really at what point have you had your 10 days [isolation], so we’ve got a good chunk of guys already through 10 days, some guys are coming to the end of the 10 days.

“The frustrating one is the close contact bit, people who don’t have Covid but are just caught in some level of a chain where they are a close contact of somebody else and might not even have Covid, or they get Covid but potentially are still gone for up to 10 days.

“So they’re the ones that are particularly challenging for people, but these guys are able to train away at their own devices so hopefully they’re doing well and not stuffing themselves with turkey and stuffing and all the rest.

“But in terms of fitness injury-wise, we’re in pretty good shape.”

The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud

Gavan Casey and Murray Kinsella take a break from eating and drinking to chat about some interesting contract news in Irish rugby.

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