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


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
Toulon pulled out of their Champions match with the Scarlets on safety grounds in December

The future of this season’s European cup competitions is in doubt as the French government debates whether their clubs can play their remaining pool fixtures this month.

The two rounds of games in the Heineken Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup are scheduled for later in January.

Concerns over the new Covid-19 strain have prompted authorities to talk.

A decision is expected in the coming days over whether the tournaments can continue in the current climate.

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.”

BBC News