The French sports ministry has recommended that the Top 14 clubs postpone games against British and Irish teams in the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup amid the Covid-19 crisis, it said in a statement to Reuters on Saturday.
“The Sports Ministry is writing this weekend to the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) to invite it to postpone the next matches including French clubs (against British and Irish clubs) in accordance with the wishes expressed by several professional French rugby clubs over the last few days,” the ministry wrote.
A source within the LNR told Reuters that it would follow recommendations from the ministry. This follows reports earlier this week that Bayonne would be pulling out of their remaining European matches while Top 14 presidents voiced a French show of support to tackle how Toulon were treated by EPCR, the governing body of the European tournaments, after their Champions Cup farce in Wales.
Montpellier owner Mohed Altrad also called for a boycott. EPCR moved to assure the safety of all players and staff, issuing a medical advisory group statement and then proceeding with the announcement of all the referees for the upcoming round three and four games.
However, their intention to proceed as planned has now reportedly been taken from them due to the French government taking action against cross-border travel. A meeting was held on Thursday between the Ministry of Sports, Health and representatives of French professional clubs on the European Cup.
"It might not be the primary motivation but I think it’s right that priority is given to domestic competitions"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 8, 2021
It’s believed there was much anger that eight Bayonne players tested positive following the pre-Christmas game against Leicester. EPCR reacted by stating their updated protocols would now more closely follow the measures which the LNR uses, but that has not been enough to convince officials in France that the games over the coming two weekends can proceed as planned.
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