Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Laszlo Geczo/INPHO Munster head coach Johann van Graan is part of the group self-isolating in Ireland.
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Huge boost for Munster as squad registration extended for Champions Cup
EPCR has stressed its intention for the pool stages to go ahead as scheduled.

MUNSTER HAVE BEEN handed a big boost with confirmation that EPCR has extended the squad registration window ahead of the opening round of Champions Cup pool games.

The change will allow Munster, Scarlets, Cardiff, and Zebre to register additional players in time for their European games in two weekends’ time.

All four clubs were hit with huge setbacks due to being delayed in returning home from South Africa this week, with Cardiff only due to fly out of Cape Town tomorrow following the postponement of two rounds of scheduled United Rugby Championship fixtures.

Munster had to leave 14 players and staff who tested positive for Covid-19 in quarantine in Cape Town when they flew out on Tuesday night, while the 34 members of their travelling party who arrived back in Ireland yesterday are now in mandatory self-isolation.

As such, Munster are preparing for their clash with Wasps in Coventry on 12 December with a crop of Ireland internationals and academy players back who didn’t travel to South Africa and are therefore free to continue training in Limerick under academy manager Ian Costello.

However, with the bulk of their senior squad in isolation and only set to finish that period the day before the Wasps game, Munster have been exploring the possibility of bringing in additional players from outside of their originally registered European squad.

The42 understands that Munster have been speaking with a number of players from the All-Ireland League about potentially coming onboard ahead of the Wasps game.

The idea of loaning players from the other Irish provinces has also been raised but it’s worth noting that any player who features in the Champions Cup cannot then play for another province/club later in the same tournament.

The other three Irish provinces would naturally be reluctant to leave themselves potentially exposed in the event of their own injury/Covid-related crises later this season.

EPCR has confirmed that “following consultation with the leagues and unions,” it will be permitted to bring in extra players as the Champions Cup organisers have extended the registration date from last month to allow all clubs to “supplement their squads with an unlimited number of previously unregistered players.”

All new players need to be registered on or before Wednesday 8 December at midday.

peter-omahony-in-a-maul Gary Carr / INPHO Munster take on Wasps in two weekends' time. Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

EPCR’s existing competition rules state that any additional registered players “must have a three-month contract with the club” at minimum, but EPCR has confirmed to The42 that such a deal will not be required in these circumstances as this is an extension of the first squad registration window.

In making this change to the final squad registration date, EPCR highlighted its intention for all European fixtures to go ahead as currently scheduled.

Earlier today, Scarlets’ executive chairman Simon Muderack urged EPCR to postpone the Welsh region’s clash with Bristol Bears on Saturday 11 December.

Scarlets are in a 10-day quarantine period at a hotel in Belfast after flying in from South Africa, meaning they will only be allowed out the day before their Bristol clash.

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However, EPCR stressed that there is no wriggle room for rescheduling.

“With no alternative weekends available in the 2021/22 season calendar, EPCR is in regular dialogue with the leagues and clubs to ensure that all possible measures are considered so that the matches take place as scheduled,” reads an EPCR statement.

Meanwhile, EPCR also confirmed the following Covid-19 protocols for the upcoming pool games in the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup:

• All players, coaching staff and essential club personnel must return a negative Covid test result in match week. The test results can be utilised to facilitate cross-border travel to matches.

• Only essential club personnel will be permitted to avail of elite sportspersons quarantine exemptions for cross-border travel. Personnel from outside the high-performance environment will not be exempt.

• Clubs will be required to abide by the regulations imposed by local authorities with regards to travel and accommodation restrictions.

• A Red Zone restriction for operational purposes will be in place at all match venues. 

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