Champions, Challenge Cup suspended due to COVID-19


The European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have been temporarily suspended after the French government recommended that games against British clubs be postponed amid the COVID-19 crisis, European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) announced on Monday.

The announcement comes after French authorities agreed that it was too much of a health risk for the TOP 14 clubs to participate in the competitions.

A EPCR statement read: “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.

“While respecting all further directives by governments and local authorities, and prioritising the health and welfare of players and club staff, EPCR, in conjunction with its shareholder leagues and unions, remains committed to trying to find a solution which will enable it to resume and complete the tournaments as soon as practicable.”

EPCR and Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) held a meeting last week with the French sports ministry which recommended postponing January’s fixtures — both home and away — between French clubs and those in the UK and Ireland.

The Champions Cup was set to resume on Friday with Northampton Saints taking on Leinster while Toulon were scheduled to host Scarlets.

The UK has recorded more than 3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 81,000 deaths, with a highly infectious variant of the coronavirus prompting many countries to close their borders to Britain.

Premiership Rugby announced it would take a two-week, mid-season break after European competitions were temporarily suspended by EPCR, with the season set to resume on Jan. 29 as scheduled when Bristol Bears host Bath.

“The welfare of everyone involved in Premiership Rugby is crucial to us and this break in the season gives us the chance to hand some much-needed rest to our hard-working players, management, staff and match officials,” Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs said in a statement.

The Six Nations is also set to begin on Feb. 6 and French rugby federation president Bernard Laporte said over the weekend that he remained optimistic that the tournament would go ahead as scheduled.

Information from Reuters was included in this report.

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