The EPCR has confirmed that Leinster’s imposed 28-0 loss to Montpellier in the second round of the Heineken Champions Cup is to stand and that the five games in the tournament that were postponed due to travel restrictions will be settled as 0-0 draws.
Yesterday morning we wrote that “Sport in the steward’s room is never ideal but it may be a crucial part of this season.” So it will prove to be but at least there is now clear visibility on what is needed.
Leinster said last night that they would meet today to consider what, if any, option was open to them as regards continuing an appeal but that could only now be through the Court of Arbitration for Sport or a full legal route and that is unlikely to be seen as viable by administrators, or perhaps needed by the management team.
The full statement from the EPCR issued last night reads as follows:
Following a series of meetings of the Board of EPCR, it has been regrettably decided to cancel the postponed fixtures in Round 2 of this season’s Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup.
The Board also authorised the EPCR Executive to determine the outcome of the fixtures as provided for in the rules of the tournaments and the EPCR Executive has decided that the appropriate solution is to record the results in each of the five Heineken Champions Cup and the two EPCR Challenge Cup fixtures in question as 0-0 draws with two match points awarded to each club (see below).
The Board and the Executive have been guided by input from the deliberations of the EPCR Sporting and Tournaments Committee which like the EPCR Board is made up of representatives of the URC, PRL and TOP 14 leagues.
The Round 2 matches were initially postponed following the unforeseen introduction of new travel measures between the UK and France which resulted in EPCR being unable to obtain assurances that existing cross-border travel exemptions for players, club staff and match officials would remain in place.
The options of modifying the tournament formats and/or rescheduling the matches were deliberated in great detail by all parties, however, in an increasingly complex fixture calendar due to Covid-19, it was regrettably decided that the only choice in the circumstances was to cancel the matches.
The Board then considered how the seven matches should be accounted for in the standings of the tournaments and it was satisfied that the correct approach was for the EPCR Executive to apply the Match Result Resolution Matrix as set out in the 2021/22 Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup Participation Agreement.
On the basis that none of the clubs involved were in a position to play once the EPCR Board had postponed the seven matches due to the new restrictive travel measures, the only option open to the EPCR Executive under the provisions of the Match Result Resolution Matrix was to record the results as 0-0 draws and to award two match points to each club.
A distinction should be drawn between the decisions in respect of the seven Round 2 matches in question and other tournament fixtures which were previously cancelled due to Covid-19 outbreaks or forced isolations affecting player availability.
Those previously cancelled fixtures could not have been played as scheduled under any circumstances, whereas the clubs involved in the Round 2 matches in question were all cleared and available to contest the matches.
Therefore, the determined outcomes of the three previously cancelled or forfeited Heineken Champions Cup fixtures, and the one EPCR Challenge Cup fixture, will stand.
EPCR would also like to thank all its participating clubs for their patience and understanding in what are extremely difficult times and wishes everyone well for the matches in Rounds 3 and 4.
So Leinster now know they have two games left, against Montpellier and Bath, both of which they would be favourites to win. That would give them a straight path towards qualification, albeit with Racing 92, Ulster and probably Exeter likely to finish ahead and secure the one spot that guarantees a home run through the knock out stages, up until the Final at least.
Ulster and Munster are two of the only five teams who secured two wins from their two fulfilled fixtures and are also not inconvenienced by the decision taken in Switzerland.
Connacht have Leicester Tigers at home this weekend and then a reverse fixture away to Stade Francais who they beat earlier in the season. One win from the two should still be enough to secure a knock out place.
Sport for Business Perspective
This was a rock and a hard place decision. Playing all the games was obviously the optimum solution but a condensed season meant that was always going to be a major challenge. Rugby cannot fit in an additional midweek fixture in the same way as soccer can, due to the physical demands and greater need for recovery. At least the decision has been taken and while blowhards on chat forums will claim it is all a conspiracy the reality is that sport exists in a complex ecosystem where deviation from the original schedule is difficult. It would have been worse if the decision had dragged on further.
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