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'Scandalous': LNR threaten legal action over Toulouse 0 Cardiff 28

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Legal action against the EPCR has been threatened by the Ligue Nationale de Rugby after defending Champions Cup champions Toulouse were left relying on results elsewhere to guarantee they qualify for the round of 16 stage following the cancellation of their round four pool match and the awarding of a 28-0 win to Cardiff along with five match points.

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Having opened their campaign with an away win in December over an understrength Cardiff XV that had been affected by their ill-fated United Rugby Championship trip to South Africa, Toulouse had their home match versus Wasps cancelled and they then went on to lose the return fixture last weekend in Coventry against the Gallagher Premiership side.

That left them in seventh place in the twelve-team pool, a position they were expected to build on with their final match against Cardiff. However, despite announcing their matchday 23 on Friday, the game was soon scratched by the EPCR and it has left Toulouse looking at the results of the matches involving Wasps, Wasps, Stade Francais and Scarlets before they can be certain that they qualify for the last 16. 

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Racing assistant Mike Prendergast guests on Le French Rugby Podcast
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Racing assistant Mike Prendergast guests on Le French Rugby Podcast

With only the top eight progressing, the latest cancellation has left Toulouse on seven points and a -4 points difference, just ahead of the now eighth place Cardiff who have finished on seven points and a -33 points difference. The Welsh region can’t overhaul Toulouse on the table but if two of the teams below them secure wins, the five-time champions could fall out of the top eight and see their title defence dramatically ended.   

Wasps, who are in ninth and play at Munster on Sunday, have six points and are -13, tenth place Castres, who are Harlequins, are on three points and -11. Below them are two teams on two points, Stade Francais with a -38 points difference ahead of their home match versus the now-qualified Connacht, and Scarlets, who host Bristol with a -62 aggregate. 

AN EPCR statement read: “Following a meeting of an independent match risk assessment committee, EPCR has been advised that the round four fixture between Toulouse and Cardiff on Saturday at Stade Ernest-Wallon cannot go ahead. Discussions with Toulouse and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby took place before the match risk assessment committee, made up of medical doctors from EPCR’s medical advisory group as well as independent medical specialists, advised EPCR of its concerns as Toulouse had recorded a significant number of positive Covid-19 test results from within its tournament squad.

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“With the risk of further infection deemed to be too great, regrettably the decision was made to cancel the fixture. Cardiff have therefore been awarded the match in Pool B on a 28-0, five-match points basis in accordance with the tournament rules.”

This wasn’t the end of the matter, however, as French league administrators soon announced a legal action threat following the cancellation. An LNR statement read: “Following EPCR’s announcement to cancel the Champions Cup match between Toulouse and Cardiff, the LNR denounces the scandalous decision as totally unfounded.

“Toulouse had put together a group of players to field a team capable of playing this match in full respect of the EPCR health regulations and the protocol French health. The EPCR Covid-19 protocol provides that the EPCR applies and complies with the protocol established by the league to which each club belongs and sticks to the position of the medical authority of that league regarding the ability of a club to play the match when positive cases are reported.

“In the case of Toulouse, the LNR’s Covid-19 expert commission communicated its position Thursday to the EPCR, this position being that the club could play the meeting against Cardiff. The decision of the EPCR is therefore taken in violation of its own regulations. It is incomprehensible and seriously damages the club and the fairness of the competition.”

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LNR president Rene Bouscatel added: “The Champions Cup is a very prestigious competition and its organiser cannot allow arbitrary decisions to be made that are contrary to its own rules. This decision is irresponsible. I have decided to convene an LNR steering committee in the urgency to discuss the follow-up, including legal action, to be given to this decision.” 

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