Champions Cup and Challenge Cup suspended for two rounds over coronavirus concerns
The Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have been suspended temporarily amid the ongoing impact of coronavirus, competition organisers European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) has announced.
Two rounds of pool games in both European club competitions – due to be held on the weekends of January 15-17 and 22-24 – have been postponed as authorities react to the impact of a new strain of Covid-19.
The French government had advised – but not ordered – their teams to avoid cross-border matches on Saturday.
An ECPR statement read: “Following a directive from the French authorities that the participation of TOP 14 clubs in the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup at the current time constitutes too great a public health risk, EPCR has no choice but to announce that the 2020/21 tournaments are temporarily suspended.
“EPCR and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby took part in a meeting by audio conference last week with representatives of the French ministries of the Interior, Health and Sport, as well as of the President’s office.
“Notable updates to EPCR’s COVID-19 protocols were presented to the French authorities, including the addition of PCR tests no earlier than three days before matches in the tournaments, conforming to French government guidelines and supplementing the existing, meticulous contact tracing measures put in place with a view to limiting the risk of transmission.
“Against the backdrop of the recent detection of a new strain of coronavirus, the French government has directed that French clubs postpone their participation in EPCR’s tournaments for the month of January, both for matches scheduled in France and for those due to be played in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
“On the basis of this directive, EPCR had no choice but to temporarily suspend the pool stage of the Heineken Champions Cup and the preliminary stage of the Challenge Cup.”
It had already been confirmed that the 2021 Women’s Six Nations has been postponed, with tournament organisers forced to concede defeat in attempts to stage the competition in its traditional February and March window. April and May have now been pencilled in as an alternative.
Baxter, Lam want Premiership games brought forward
Rob Baxter and Pat Lam believe Premiership games should be moved forward if necessary to free up fixture schedule space with games now likely to pile up for English clubs.
Baxter and Lam want to see the weekends which had been allocated to Champions Cup and European Challenge Cup games used to play domestic fixtures.
That would potentially create room for the pool matches in both European tournaments to be completed later this season on two current Premiership weekends.
“I would like to think they will move positively and quickly and bring Premiership games forward,” said Baxter, Exeter’s director of rugby.
“If we are going to play European games, we’ve got to create space somewhere. The only way to do that is to shift Premiership games.”
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