Champions Cup, Challenge Cup in doubt over France COVID-19 fears - reports

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(Reuters) - European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) is awaiting a decision from the French government on whether its clubs will be allowed to participate in the remaining Champions Cup and Challenge Cup fixtures this month, British media reported on Friday.

Two rounds of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup are scheduled to be played over the weekends of Jan. 16 and 23.

In December, Toulon pulled out of a Champions Cup match against Welsh side Scarlets due to safety concerns over a Scarlets player testing positive, while several matches in the last round of fixtures were called off due to COVID-19.

The French government this week said it would continue to maintain border restrictions with Britain amid concerns over a new variant of the coronavirus.

The BBC reported that EPCR, who organise the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup, met with French clubs and the government to present revised protocols after the clubs expressed concerns over testing procedures in Britain.

"We are expecting to hear a decision within the next 24 to 48 hours," Simon Halliday, the chairman of EPCR, told the Telegraph.

"If they call a halt, then I imagine it will have a significant impact in the coming weeks on other tournaments... If that is the reality we will have to have a complete reset and look at a different approach of how to finish the season."

The reports said the French government's decision could also have implications for the Six Nations, which is scheduled to begin next month.

France are due to travel to Italy for their opener on Feb. 6 before visiting Ireland. They are scheduled to face England at Twickenham on March 13.

(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by William Mallard)