European rugby officials have bowed to the inevitable and postponed the scheduled semi-final and Marseille final dates for this season’s Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup tournaments.
EPCR had initially taken the decision on March 16 to postponed the quarter-finals series scheduled for April 3/5, which had Champions Cup matches set to take place in Dublin, Exeter, Clermont and Toulouse, as well as Challenge Cup games in Toulon, Bordeaux, Leicester and Bristol.
A statement from EPCR read: “Following a conference call on Monday, the EPCR board can reconfirm the suspension of this season’s Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup tournaments and has furthermore decided to postpone the semi-final matches, as well as the 2020 Marseille finals, which were due to be played on the weekends of 1/2/3 May and 22/23 May respectively.
“In making the decision, the board is abiding by the official directives and recommendations of the relevant authorities in its territories to restrict the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In light of the earlier postponement of its quarter-final matches and with fixtures in Europe’s professional league competitions currently suspended due to the public health crisis, EPCR believes it necessary to provide as much clarity as possible to all stakeholders regarding the knockout stages of its tournaments.
“To that end, EPCR is working with the leagues and unions to restructure a conclusion to its season as part of a wider rescheduling of the remainder of the season in Europe, with all contingencies underpinned by the requirement to protect the health and welfare of players, club staff, match officials, supporters and the wider rugby community.
“EPCR remains committed to completing the 2019/20 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup season, and it is planned to reschedule the quarter-final and semi-final matches, as well as the Marseille finals, in line with fixtures in the professional league competitions, subject to advice from government and local authorities.”
RugbyPass reported last week how officials in France remained committed to staging the showpiece finals in Marseille, suggesting that July was a possible date for the games to take place once the domestic Top 14 season had been completed.
“We are studying all the possibilities,” said a source at the time about a tournament where the big quarter-final clash was set to be the visit of champions Saracens to Dublin to play Leinster, the team they defeated in the 2019 final in Newcastle.
“We notably noticed that the Velodrome stadium in Marseille could possibly be free in July. But this is only one of several working hypotheses for the moment… we can only really move forward when we know a little more about the evolution of the epidemic.”
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