Relief as European pool stage to continue as planned

·2-min read

The European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup will continue as planned for the rest of the pool stage after exemptions were made from French travel restrictions.

In a major boost for the competitions, it was confirmed on Friday that clubs and match officials will be granted exemptions from restrictions in the country.

The rules imposed on travellers from the United Kingdom, which include the requirement to self-isolate for at least 48 hours after entering France, threatened to scupper the final two rounds of the pool stage.

But tournament organiser EPCR has been told that exemptions for what is termed the “pursuit of an economic activity” applies to players, coaching staff and officials taking part in the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.

Six games between French and British rivals from the Champions Cup and two from the Challenge Cup are scheduled to take place next weekend, starting with Newcastle’s trip to Biarritz on January 14.

The announcement saves the group stage from becoming untenable due to a host of postponed fixtures.

EPCR still face the challenging task of finding a window in the packed rugby calendar to re-stage those matches from round two that were called off on account of the French travel restrictions.

Rather than issue a 28-0 defeat to one team, as happens in the event of an outbreak of Covid, it was decided to find a new date for games that fell victim to the safety measures brought in at short notice.

Bristol have yet to play after their opener against the Scarlets fell to coronavirus before their trip to Stade Francais was aborted.

“While recognising that these are particularly challenging times for all its stakeholders, EPCR will continue to work with the leagues and unions so that this month’s matches can be played safely,” a statement read.

“EPCR is optimistic that this season’s tournaments will be played to a successful conclusion.

“In addition, discussions are ongoing regarding the five Champions Cup and two Challenge Cup round two fixtures which were postponed due to unforeseen circumstances arising from changes to border controls between France and the UK.”

Six-strong list for Rugby Union Writers’ Club award

Meanwhile, France scrum-half Antoine Dupont is one of six international stars included on the shortlist for the Rugby Union Writers’ Club personality of the year.

The recently crowned World Rugby Player of the Year has excited supporters in recent times as he boasts the complete game that’s inspired France and Toulouse.

Joining Dupont on the shortlist is Wales and British & Irish Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones, Pacific Islands rugby campaigner Dan Leo and England’s Marcus Smith.

There’s also nominations for England Women’s second-row Zoe Aldcroft and coach Simon Middleton, following the side’s 18-game winning streak for the Red Roses.

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