With new cross-channel restrictions and Leinster’s game at Montpellier already off, the European Champions Cup is in serious danger of being lost to the pandemic.
Two English teams are travelling to France to play matches on Sunday, which would technically place them in breach of the new governmental orders for arrivals from the UK, which come into force on Saturday night.
Tournament organisers EPCR have confirmed that they are in discussions with the French authorities over what the new measures mean for the round two games still due to take place this weekend.
Leinster are said to be ‘disappointed’ with EPCR’s decision to award the match points to Montpellier, but it is difficult to see what else EPCR could have done. Saracens have also officially forfeited their Challenge Cup match against Pau.
Tourism and work are no longer sufficient reasons for travel from the UK to France regardless of vaccination status, with Paris declaring only essential travel is permitted. Leinster would not have fallen foul of that rule as they are from Ireland, but their latest round of testing produced several new positives.
Also adding to the problems for visiting teams is that all arrivals from the UK must provide a negative test within the previous 24 hours as well as quarantine in France for seven days, although a fresh negative test will reduce that to 48 hours.
While the restrictions cast a cloud over an additional seven games this weekend, the fact that they come into effect from Saturday evening places the following day’s action in major doubt, with Wasps’ match in Toulouse and Bristol’s match against Stade Francais both on Sunday.
Bears director of rugby Pat Lam admits the game is shrouded in uncertainty.
“I wouldn’t say I’m confident that it will go ahead but we are confident we can go over there and prepare well,” Lam said.
“There are talks going on, we are expecting to fly out on Saturday and are just waiting to see what is happening.
“The French government are involved now which is the stumbling block at the moment. It’s out of our control.
“Getting over there is one thing, but you have to do all the PCR tests with all the timings.
“You might end up flying over there, not getting your results until you arrive and then players are ruled out and you are coming all the way back again.
“Now it’s not only about being able to get in, but the testing process and a 48-hour quarantine, which obviously can’t happen.
“These are the things our decision-makers are going through and hopefully they’ll let us know asap.”
In better news for Lam, Bristol Bears have announced the signing of England prop Ellis Genge, who will join the club from Premiership rivals Leicester Tigers at the end of the season.
Genge has put pen to paper on a deal to return to his boyhood club ahead of the 2022/23 campaign, this coming after his Tigers exit was confirmed on Wednesday.
A product of Bristol’s Academy, the 26-year-old made 28 outings before departing for Leicester Tigers in 2016.
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