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Racing could get home venue semi-final as EPCR allay Brexit-related fears

Leinster or Ulster could have to face the French club in their Parisian home stadium.

LEINSTER OR ULSTER could face Racing 92 at the French club’s home venue of the Paris La Défense Arena in the semi-finals of the Champions Cup, with EPCR considering allowing the Top 14 outfit to use their home stadium.

Semi-finalists who have enjoyed ‘home advantage’ in the Champions Cup in recent seasons have not been able to host the games in their own home stadium, instead having ‘home country advantage’.

A view of the Paris La Defense Arena ahead of the game Racing's Paris La Défense Arena. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

For example, Racing 92 had home advantage against Munster in last season’s semi-finals but hosted the game in Bordeaux.

However, EPCR has confirmed that it is considering the suitability of the 32,000-capacity Paris La Défense Arena in the event of Racing beating Toulouse in the Champions Cup quarter-finals at the end of March.

That could mean the winner of the Leinster versus Ulster quarter-final travelling to face Racing at their home stadium in the semi-finals, with Racing having a higher seeding than both Irish provinces after the pool stages of the Champions Cup.

Similarly, if Edinburgh beat Munster and Glasgow overcome Saracens on the other side of the draw, EPCR is considering Edinburgh’s home stadium, BT Murrayfield, as the semi-final venue.

EPCR says it will confirm the selected semi-final venue options in England, France, Ireland and Scotland “at a later date.”

Meanwhile, EPCR says it has reassured European clubs that registered players who are citizens of the United Kingdom will continue to be considered as ‘European Players’ in the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup for the remainder of the current season.

With the UK scheduled to leave the European Union on Friday 29 March – the same weekend as the European rugby quarter-finals – there had been concerns over how Brexit would affect player eligibility.

This reassurance will come as a relief to UK-based clubs, while EPCR also confirmed that it is considering minor rule changes that would resolve the issue of ‘European Player’ status in the coming seasons, post-Brexit.

“Following a recent meeting, the EPCR Board has decided to use its full discretion in selecting appropriate venues for Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals matches,” reads a statement from EPCR.

A view of the Paris La Defense Arena ahead of the game Racing's stadium is indoor. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“With key elements such as stadium capacity, commercial viability, operational suitability and location remaining paramount for the high-profile matches, EPCR will continue to designate the venues in conjunction with the recommendations of its stakeholders.

“As a number of clubs now own or control premium venues which befit the status of a Heineken Champions Cup semi-final, EPCR will also consider the possibility of staging a semi-final at a home stadium of a qualified club. 

“Regarding the current season, the suitability of BT Murrayfield as a venue should Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors be scheduled to meet in Semi-final 1 of the Heineken Champions Cup will be assessed, while the 32,000-capacity Paris La Défense Arena will be considered along with other stadiums in France should Racing 92 qualify for Semi-final 2 on the weekend of 20/21 April.

“This use of full discretion in selecting Heineken Champions Cup semi-final venues does not require any change to the governing rules and regulations of EPCR and, as in previous seasons, continues to recognise performances during the pool stage with the highest-ranked clubs earning home country advantage in their respective semi-final matches.

“The selected semi-final venue options in England, France, Ireland and Scotland will be announced at a later date. 

“On a separate note, EPCR has reassured the clubs which have qualified for the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup that a registered player who is a citizen of the United Kingdom will be considered as a European Player for the purposes of the tournaments as far as the remainder of the 2018/19 season is concerned. 

“EPCR is also considering a number of minor rule changes which would resolve the issue of European Player status for future seasons.”

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Murray Kinsella

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