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Calling a halt to the Champions Cup seems like common sense - Andy Goode

By Andy Goode
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The French clubs and government have thrown the future of this season’s Champions Cup into doubt and if we’re honest, they have a point.

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It’s the hardest solution to the latest concerns around the competition and Covid-19 because everyone wants to see Europe’s best go up against one another but common sense says we should call a halt to the Champions Cup and start again next season.

EPCR and the French clubs and government have met this week because of concerns over the new strain of the virus and revised Covid-19 protocols, including moving testing from Monday to Wednesday, have been introduced but the threat of the French clubs pulling out remains.

We’ve already seen reports of Bayonne wanting to pull out of the Challenge Cup and it wouldn’t be the European Cup without the French clubs, so I can’t see how the tournaments can continue if they pull out.

A decision is due in the next couple of days but we’re at an equivalent point now to when rugby was paused back in March in reality so there’s certainly merit to postponing the competition for a season.

The French clubs are flying high in Europe’s top tier this season more than most with Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Lyon, Racing and Toulouse all having won both of their opening games so we can’t accuse them of not taking European competition seriously.

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The Top 14 does come first for them in almost all cases, though, and games affected by Covid-19 have been postponed in that league rather than cancelled at this stage. Not having European fixtures would free up a few weekends to improve their domestic situation.

It might not be the primary motivation but I think it’s right that priority is given to domestic competitions and it would also have the benefit of allowing players to have some breathing space because there’s very little of that between now and the summer as things stand.

How well the French clubs are performing obviously shouldn’t and won’t factor into the decision-making process. We’re in unprecedented times, as has been said umpteen times over the past 10 months or so, and the health of players and their families must come first.

Testing a bit closer to kick-off may help but there’s still a risk whenever the testing is done and we may not want to think about it but it’s going to be an issue for the Six Nations as well.

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There are cancellations left, right and centre at the moment in the Premiership and other domestic competitions and cross border tournaments are even more problematic in a lot of ways.

The only way to really reduce the risk to a very low level would be to introduce bio-secure bubbles as they have done in cricket. That obviously isn’t practical in the Champions Cup and you could theoretically do it for the Six Nations but it’s a hell of a lot to ask of players and I don’t think it’s on the cards at all.

In cricket it maybe made sense because in many instances players would have been away for long periods of time anyway on tour. It was obviously still a huge sacrifice for the players to spend so long away from their immediate families though.

Spending months away from your extended family is one thing but to introduce bio-secure bubbles into the Six Nations would mean asking players to spend at least a couple of months not seeing their partners, and young children in some cases, and I can’t see that happening.

As a result, we are going to continue seeing positive tests and games being postponed or cancelled so something is going to have to give when it comes to certain competitions.

The concerns of the French clubs and government may yet be assuaged by the new protocols and they may continue in the Champions Cup but the health and welfare of the players and their families has to come first and, unfortunately, calling a halt to this season’s competition does seem like common sense right now.

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Shaylen 1 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

12 Go to comments
J
Jon 7 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
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