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Toulon pull out of Champions Cup clash in Wales citing Covid-19 concerns

The French club said the health of their players and staff is of the utmost importance.

The match was due to kick off at 5.30pm this evening.
The match was due to kick off at 5.30pm this evening.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Updated Dec 18th 2020, 4:59 PM

TOULON HAVE ANNOUNCED their decision to pull out of this evening’s Champions Cup clash with the Scarlets.

EPCR has officially confirmed that the game has been postponed.

The French club were already in Wales for the fixture, which was due to kick-off at 5.30pm this evening.

Toulon have cited fears for the health and safety of their players, staff, and their families after a positive Covid-19 case in the Scarlets squad.

EPCR say that a Medical Risk Assessment Committee was convened earlier today and said it “was satisfied that the risk of further transmission had been contained before recommending that the match could go ahead safely.” 

Toulon highlighted the fact that Bath, who played against Scarlets last weekend, have seen their fixture against La Rochelle this weekend cancelled.

That was due to 12 Bath players being in self-isolation after coming into close contact with the Scarlets players who later tested positive for Covid-19.

Toulon say their president, Bernard Lemaitre, spoke extensively with EPCR director Vincent Gaillard and argued that worries over the health and safety conditions meant the game should not go ahead.

Toulon claim that EPCR “nevertheless upheld its decision” to proceed with the fixture.

“Faced with this state of affairs, Rugby Club Toulonnais, although aware of the serious consequences, decided not to play this meeting as planned this evening,” reads the official club statement.

A statement from EPCR said it had suggested to Toulon that the game be pushed back until later this weekend to allow any players unwilling to play to pull out. EPCR also suggested that Toulon could source replacement players from the club’s existing tournament squad.

“These offers were rejected by RC Toulon, and EPCR can therefore confirm that the match is postponed,” reads an official statement from the competition organisers.

Three Champions Cup games originally scheduled for this weekend have already been cancelled due to Covid-19.

Glasgow v Lyon, La Rochelle v Bath, and Toulouse v Exeter were cancelled in recent days, with EPCR stating that it would convene Match Result Resolution Committees to decide on the recorded outcome of those fixtures.

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It remains unclear what will happen with this Scarlets v Toulon fixture.

“Rugby Club Toulonnais learned on Thursday 17 December that at least one player from the Scarlets team had tested positive, earlier this week, for Covid-19,” reads the Toulon statement his evening.

“Following this, Bath Rugby Club, who had faced the Scarlets last weekend, were forced to forfeit their second fixture in the Champions Cup because 12 players in their squad had been in “close contact” with this Welsh player.

“Despite this extremely delicate context, the EPCR, with the approval of the Welsh Rugby Federation, wished to maintain the Scarlets v Toulon match.

“RCT president Bernard Lemaitre interacted extensively with EPCR director general Vincent Gaillard.

“He [Lemaitre] said that the sanitary conditions were not met to keep the organization of this meeting, the health of the staff players and their families being paramount.

“The EPCR nevertheless upheld its decision.

“Faced with this state of affairs, Rugby Club Toulonnais, although aware of the serious consequences, decided not to play this meeting as planned this evening.”

EPCR later released the following statement:

“EPCR have been informed that RC Toulon believe that this evening’s Heineken Champions Cup Round 2 fixture against Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets cannot be played in a sufficiently safe manner for their matchday squad and staff.

“Following confirmation by Scarlets that one of their players tested positive for Covid-19 after last weekend’s Round 1 match against Bath Rugby, the player self-isolated in accordance with public health guidelines and his two close contacts were not selected in the matchday squad for the Pool A fixture against RC Toulon.

“A Medical Risk Assessment Committee was convened earlier today to consider any potential issues in relation to Scarlets’ testing and tracing, and it was satisfied that the risk of further transmission had been contained before recommending that the match could go ahead safely.

“On learning of RC Toulon’s concerns regarding the fixture, it was suggested that the match could be postponed to a later date in the weekend to allow any of the club’s players to opt out of the match if they wished to do so. It was also suggested that RC Toulon could source willing players from their existing tournament squad to replace those who had withdrawn and that the Scarlets matchday squad could undergo additional PCR testing.

“These offers were rejected by RC Toulon, and EPCR can therefore confirm that the match is postponed.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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