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EPCR abandons plan for Marseille to host 2020 European finals, rejigs future finals schedule

(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

This season’s Heineken Champions and Challenge Cup finals will not be played in Marseille after EPCR officials finally admitted defeat in trying to stick to their original plan to host the European showpieces in the French port city. The finals had initially been scheduled for last May.

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Despite the suspension of the European campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, tournament officials had insisted during the layoff that the plan was to still host these games in Marseille. However, EPCR have now changed tack, explaining that the 2019/20 finals will be held at yet to be decided venues while also adjusting the finals schedule for future years. 

To ensure Marseille is not completely abandoned, officials have now stated that the 2020/21 finals will be held in the French city and the originally planned use of the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in London will be pushed back twelve months to instead host the 2021/22 finals. 

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A statement released on Thursday read: “Due to the many uncertainties created by the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been decided that the 2020 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals will not now be held in Marseille as planned and the matches will be played at a new venue or venues. 

“With tens of thousands of fans scheduled to travel to the south of France, the board of EPCR and the local organising committee have agreed that insufficient safeguards are currently in place during the public health crisis to stage two high-profile matches at the 67,000-capacity Stade Velodrome.

“As a consequence, EPCR is currently working with its shareholder leagues and unions to secure an alternative venue or venues for the two finals which will be played on the weekend of October 16/17/18 and details will be announced as soon as practicable. 

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“As part of this adjustment to its future planning, EPCR is pleased to announce that Marseille will now host the 2021 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals at the Stade Velodrome on the weekend of May 21/22, and that the matches at the 62,000-capacity Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London will be rescheduled for 2022.

“Tickets for this season’s finals will be valid for the 2021 weekend with no change to category or seating, and all ticket holders will be contacted by email within the next 48 hours with details of how to avail of a full refund if required.

“As previously communicated, the quarter-finals of both 2019/20 tournaments will be played on the weekend of September 18/19/20 with the semi-finals scheduled for the weekend of September 25/26/27. Exact dates, venues, kick-off times and TV coverage will be announced as soon as possible.

“As is now customary during the pandemic, the matches will be subject to government guidelines with the health and welfare of players, club staff, match officials, supporters and the wider rugby community to the fore.”

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2020 EPCR dates
Quarter-finals: weekend of September 18/19/20
Semi-finals: weekend of September 25/26/27
Heineken Champions Cup final: weekend of October 16/17/18 (venue TBC)
Challenge Cup final: weekend of October 16/17/18 (venue TBC)
Start of 2020/21 season: weekend of December 11/12/13

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Shaylen 2 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

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Jon 8 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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