Heineken Champions Cup and European Challenge Cup in doubt over Covid concerns

2 weeks ago
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Toulon's South African lock Eben Etzebeth jumps for the ball during the European Rugby Champions Cup match against Sale Sharks at Mayol Stadium in Toulon

The future of this season’s European cups is in doubt, as the French government decides whether its clubs can play their remaining pool fixtures.

The two rounds of Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup pool games left are scheduled for the weekends of the 16 and 23 January.

But concerns over the new strain of Covid-19 have led to urgent talks among the authorities.

A decision is expected in the coming days.

Earlier this week, European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) – organisers of both the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup – met with the French clubs and government to present revised Covid-19 protocols for the remaining pool matches, with testing switching from Monday to Wednesday in line with regulations in France.

It comes after a handful of French clubs voiced their concern over testing processes in the UK.

In December, Toulon pulled out of their Champions match with the Scarlets on safety grounds, while Bayonne have also threatened to withdraw from the Challenge Cup.

As a result EPCR have updated their protocols in a bid to allay French fears and to continue the tournaments.

“Notable updates to the protocols include the addition of matchday minus three testing, conforming to the new directives of the French government,” said an EPCR spokesperson.

“These changes supplement the existing, meticulous contact tracing with all measures put in place with a view to limiting the risk of transmission and allowing the tournaments to continue in the context of the strong evolution of a new variant of Coronavirus.

“EPCR expects to receive a decision from the authorities in the next 48 hours.”

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BBC Sport – Rugby Union

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