All seven European matches involving French and British clubs this weekend have been postponed, tournament organiser EPCR has announced.
The decision has been made in response to new travel restrictions brought in by the French government that have made cross-border competition impossible.
Five Heineken Champions Cup games have fallen, on top of the two already lost to Covid outbreaks, and two Challenge Cup matches.
“The board received briefings from the three professional leagues which included updated information from the respective governments,” an EPCR statement read.
“However, there were insufficient assurances that these matches would not be at risk.”
The decision to reschedule the games rather than following the established protocol of cancelling them avoids the minefield of deciding who should receive the match points given it is a situation outside of the clubs’ control.
However, there is little room in a packed schedule to reschedule the postponed games, raising the prospect of midweek matches.
The decision affects all games taking place on Saturday and Sunday, so Friday night’s Challenge Cup clash between the Dragons and Lyon at Rodney Parade goes ahead.
ℹ️ Following a meeting of the EPCR Board today (Friday, 17 December) it has been decided that due to current exceptional circumstances, Round 2 matches in @ChampionsCup between French and UK clubs scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday) and Sunday are postponed.
— Bristol Bears (@BristolBears) December 17, 2021
Munster are also able to host Castres in Limerick on Saturday evening due to the travel restrictions being limited to visitors from the UK only.
Among the games to be abandoned are Clermont’s visit to Sale and two anticipated Sunday fixtures when Wasps and Bristol were due to travel to Toulouse and Stade Francais respectively.
Two Champions Cup matches had already been lost to Covid outbreaks, resulting in Montpellier being awarded a 28-0 victory against Leinster and Racing 92 receiving the same outcome against the Ospreys.
The French government has stipulated that tourism and work are no longer sufficient reasons for travel regardless of vaccination status, with Paris declaring only essential journeys are permitted.
In addition, all arrivals from the UK must provide a negative PCR 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.