The Heineken Champions’ and Challenge Cups have been suspended with immediate effect following a directive from the French Government that French Clubs could no longer play against teams from the UK.
It means that the next two weekends have been cleared of matches and it is possible now that the tournament will go straight to a knock out Round of 16 or the originally planned quarter-finals.
In previous matches that have been called off, a panel has handed down a result. The way things stand at the moment Leinster and Munster would both progress to the knock out stage with Ulster and Connacht heading into the Challenge Cup.
The original format was for Quarter Finals in the Champions Cup to take place over two legs on the first and second weekends in April, with the Challenge Cup being held in single-game knock out rounds from Last 16 on the first weekend to Quarter Finals on the second weekend.
There are currently no spare weekends in the calendar to make up for lost time, at least based on the Guinness Six Nations proceeding to its original schedule as it is hoped.
The full statement from European Professional Club Rugby read as follows:
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 on Monday, 11 January 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.
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 will be making no further comment at the present time.
Sport for Business Partners