Tournament organisers EPCR have temporarily suspended the preliminary stage of the Challenge Cup and pool stages of the Heineken Champions Cup.
EPCR have today released the following statement:
“Following a directive from the French authorities that the participation of its Top14 clubs in the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup at the current time constitutes too great a public health risk, EPCR has no choice but to announce that the 2020/21 tournaments are temporarily suspended.
EPCR and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby took part in a meeting by audio conference last week with representatives of the French ministries of the Interior, Health and Sport, as well as of the President’s office. Notable updates to EPCR’s Covid-19 protocols were presented to the French authorities, including the addition of PCR tests no earlier than three days before matches in the tournaments, conforming to French government guidelines and supplementing the existing, meticulous contact tracing measures put in place with a view to limiting the risk of transmission.
Against the backdrop of the recent detection of a new strain of coronavirus, the French government has directed that French clubs postpone their participation in EPCR’s tournaments for the month of January, both for matches scheduled in France and for those due to be played in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
On the basis of this directive, EPCR had no choice but to temporarily suspend the pool stage of the Heineken Champions Cup and the preliminary stage of the Challenge Cup.
While respecting all further directives by governments and local authorities, and prioritising the health and welfare of players and club staff, EPCR, in conjunction with its shareholder leagues and unions, remains committed to trying to find a solution which will enable it to resume and complete the tournaments as soon as practicable.
EPCR will be making no further comment at the present time.”
Leicester Tigers had been due to host Bayonne at Mattioli Woods Welford Road this Friday and then travel to Brive on Saturday, January 23 in the last two games of the preliminary stages of the Challenge Cup.
Premiership Rugby have confirmed that there will be a two-week mid-season break following the announcement of a temporary suspension of European competition.
Darren Childs, Premiership Rugby chief executive, said: "The welfare of everyone involved in Premiership Rugby is crucial to us and this break in the season gives us the chance to hand some much-needed rest to our hard-working players, management, staff and match officials.”
The Gallagher Premiership Rugby season will return as scheduled at the end of the month, with Tigers at home to Sale Sharks on Saturday, January 30.