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BREAKING: All European rugby games involving British teams against French opposition are SCRAPPED due to new Covid travel rules… plunging the Champions and Challenge Cups into disarray
- All British against French European rugby games have been scrapped
- Sportsmail understands that clubs are learning their games have been cancelled
- The French government is closing their UK borders to all but essential travel
- Earlier on Friday, Racing 92 were awarded a 28-0 forefit win over the Ospreys
Both European Cups lie in tatters after eight fixtures bit the dust on Friday in light of Covid chaos.
With the French government banning all but essential travel to and from the UK from Saturday, due to rising Omicron cases here, Champions and Challenge Cup organisers European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) postponed all matches between British and French teams set for this weekend.
Sportsmail broke the news that those seven matches, featuring Bath, Sale, Scarlets, Wasps, Bristol, London Irish and Worcester were to be canned, following the earlier cancellation of Racing 92 against Ospreys which the Welsh side forfeited 28-0 due to cases in their camp.
And after three crunch meetings between EPCR and the French clubs on Thursday and Friday competition chiefs confirmed that due to ‘exceptional circumstances’ the games could not be played.
‘This is a consequence of new travel measures between the UK and France which are being introduced by the French Government,’ their statement read.
British against French European rugby games look likely to be scrapped in a blanket decision
‘The board received briefings from the three professional leagues which included updated information from the respective governments, however, there were insufficient assurances that these matches would not be at risk.
‘Therefore, the intention is to reschedule the following round two fixtures to a later date.’
Crucially EPCR did not cancel the games, optimistically hoping they can be replayed and broadcast to fulfil contracts.
However there is no free weekend in the crammed rugby calendar from now until late June, so the two-legged last 16 of the Champions Cup may have to be a one-match affair.
That is if the Covid situation calms before pool rounds three and four in January, though, allowing freer cross-border travel, which seems unlikely.
Racing 92 were awarded a 28-0 forefit win over the Ospreys, who had positive cases in camp
French club bosses were nervous travelling to the UK, as if any player or staff member were to test positive they would have to quarantine in the country for 10 days, missing Christmas and beyond.
As late as midday on Friday British clubs were being told to proceed with their travel and preparations plans as normal by EPCR – and all announced their virus-free teams.
But the games were pulled barely an hour later, so only eight of 18 matches scheduled over the two continental tournaments remained.
These blanket postponements followed the outright cancellations of Pau against Saracens on Wednesday, Montpellier versus Leinster on Thursday and Racing 92 against Ospreys.
Those went due to confirmed cases at Saracens, Leinster and Ospreys so all forfeited 28-0, although Montpellier had Covid too.
GAMES OFF INVOLVING BRITISH TEAMS AND FRENCH OPPONENTS
European Champions Cup
Montpellier vs Leinster (Match cancelled and 28-0 win awarded to Montpellier)
Racing 92 vs Ospreys (Match cancelled and 28-0 win awarded to Racing 92)
Bath vs Stade Rochelais – Saturday
Sale vs Clermont – Saturday
Munster vs Castres – Saturday
Scarlets vs Bordeaux – Sunday
Stade Toulousain vs Wasps – Sunday
Stade Francais vs Bristol – Sunday
European Challenge Cup
Dragons vs Lyon – Friday
Worcester vs Biarritz – Saturday
London Irish vs Brive – Sunday