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Cullen: EPCR have lacked consistency in dealing with cancelled fixtures

Leinster remain deeply frustrated by the decision to award Montpellier a 28-0 bonus-point win following their cancelled round two meeting.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen.
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen.
Image: Ben Brady/INPHO

FOLLOWING A MONTH-LONG, unanticipated hiatus, Leinster finally return to action this weekend when they welcome Montpellier to the RDS for a round three Heineken Champions Cup clash tomorrow [KO 1pm, live on BT Sport 2].

Yet as much as the province are trying to stay focused on the challenges that lie ahead, it’s been difficult to move past some of the issues which have cropped up in the weeks since their last outing in early December.

The province are still unhappy with ECPR’s decision to award Montpellier a 28-0 bonus-point win after the round two meeting between the sides was cancelled last month following Covid outbreaks in both camps.

Their anger was heightened when subsequent round two games which were cancelled due to travel restrictions between the UK and France ended up being recorded as 0-0 draws, with each team awarded two points.

Leinster had a fully fit matchday squad available for their trip to Montpellier, but saw the game pulled after they failed to secure clearance to travel from ECPR’s medical committee. 

The province looked to appeal that decision but EPCR always looked unlikely to budge, reaffirming their stance during the week.

Covid issues continue to hang over the tournament, with Montpellier reporting a high number of cases in the lead up to this weekend’s fixture, while other teams have previously seen games go ahead despite reporting positive cases late in the week.

Yesterday, as Leinster named their team to take on a much-changed Montpellier, Leo Cullen explained his frustration around EPCR’s move to record some postponed games as 0-0 draws, while his side remain stuck with a 28-0 defeat.

“I don’t know what your thoughts are, but it does seem illogical to me,” Cullen said.

“Particularly when we had a team that was ready to go (to Montpellier). We would have PCR-ed on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of that week, antigen tested on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, changed our travel arrangements to fly the day of the game and had everyone ready to go.

josh-van-der-flier-celebrates-after-the-game Leinster haven't played a game since the 11 December win over Bath. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“You saw at Wasps, the amount of changes that they had on the day of the game (against Munster, 12 December). I don’t know the specifics of that, I’m not privy to that, but certainly when you look from the outside in at that and try to compare with what we’re doing and seeing internally here, and even to hear about the Castres game (v Munster last night) as well with the six cases they’ve had.

“Montpellier, the number I heard was 17 cases between players and staff last week, more this week, so again I don’t know the specifics, I’m just picking up different sections that I’m reading, but it does seem illogical to me the decision.

“We talked to EPCR on Wednesday of the original Montpellier week and we would have expressed concerns about the travel and the 10 days (isolation) and being stuck. I know there was obviously a lot of UK teams were going through that week, about getting stuck in France and the pressures before Christmas with friends and family and all the rest. It seemed like a sensible decision, a draw, at that point in time to me.

But we pushed on on the recommendation we got from EPCR. It’s important to note that. We pushed on ahead with the preparations and then the game gets called off, even though we had sign-off from public health as well.

“That’s the bit from the logical point of view, but that’s probably on outside sources to put more pressure on the decision. We’re sort of done in terms of what we can do so we’ll see what plays out with that. 

“Decisions happen, we can debate about them all day, but a decision has taken place. It seems wrong in my opinion but that’s for other people to judge. That’s just my sense of logic.”

Earlier this week, ECPR stated that “a distinction should be drawn” between the games recorded as 0-0 draws in light of travel restrictions, and previous decisions surrounding games which were cancelled due to Covid outbreaks.

“I understand there was a sequence in terms of how some of these decisions were made,” Cullen continued.

“Do you go back and look at the decisions and can you change (them)? Obviously the other games that were declared 0-0, they were originally postponed, again there was some uncertainty over whether the tournament was going to get shaped differently.

“Anyway, they are questions for EPCR. We are the ones suffering from a 28-0 loss at the moment.

We are licking our wounds and we can only spend so much time talking about it because we have to get on with playing the next game, which is Montpellier again at the RDS. That’s what we’ve tried to do, because you can drive yourself mad with frustrations.

“There are almost two different stories going on at the moment. For now let’s just assume we lost the game 28-0 because that’s in essence where we currently sit. How does that get changed? You tell me.”

The Leinster board met during the week to discuss any possible recourse, but there is no official appeals channel available via EPCR.

“Not in the competition rules there’s not, no. Talk to EPCR, they’ll give you a different side of the story. There’s been a bit of a… the organisers will go out to media sources and tell them their view of what’s going on, I’m giving you what I see and what’s going on here during the course of that week, how it played out. 

“Now we’re seeing other situations that are very similar, if not worse in many cases. The extra detail we went into around testing that week, so to even come in (yesterday) and find out Castres have six cases, etc. What’s the difference? Someone else explain that to me, I don’t know.”


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One of the big concerns for Leinster is the ongoing uncertainty surrounding future rounds in the competition, and how that 28-0 loss may affect them down the line.

There is huge consequences when you lose a game 28-0 versus a 0-0 draw. There are significant knock-on consequences of that, and sometimes that’s about seedings later in the tournament where you get a home draw, and in the times we are living in there are commercial consequences to all that as well.

“So it could be potentially a very costly 28-0 loss for us as opposed to a 0-0 draw. Yes, it’s imperfect, but I am just looking for consistency and logic. That’s all I’m asking for because I haven’t necessarily seen that in terms of some of the decisions around the Wasps game and, today (Friday), the Castres game. Even with the Montpellier situation where they have had 17 cases, I believe last week. Again, I can’t say for definite on the specifics of some of these, plus more cases this week.

“That’s all you want, a consistency, and I don’t necessarily think we have seen that.”

ciaran-frawley Ciarán Frawley has been named to start against Montpellier on Sunday. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

For now, Leinster’s aim is simply to go out and get maximum points from their next two games to leave themselves in the best position they can.

And with Montpellier naming a number of debutants in their team for the trip to Dublin, tomorrow’s outing should offer a perfect opportunity for Leinster to get back on track in a competition they last won in 2018.

“We want to go all out with the mentality to attack from the off and see where that takes us.  

“Montpellier are team that are hard to play against. They have a strong kicking game, a big heavy pack, will make life difficult for us, go hard at the ball. You can see in that Exeter game, particularly in the first half, their game plan worked pretty effectively, Exeter wore them down in the end.  

“For us it’s just being at one, let’s go out, get excited about playing at the RDS and see where that takes us. We can see at the end of weekend where we sit going into the last round so we just need to maximise our points we get that day too. Ten (points from the two games) would be our goal, but things play out different ways as well.”  

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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