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'I remain furious with the organisers': Toulouse hit out at EPCR

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Toulouse took part last month in their fourth successive Heineken Champions Cup semi-final, but the French giants remain furious with tournament organisers EPCR over how they very nearly missed out on qualifying for the knockout stages.

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The 2021 champions had two home matches cancelled by EPCR due to the pandemic. Their December game versus Wasps was declared a 0-0 draw but Cardiff were awarded a 28-0 win when the January 21 match away to Toulouse was called off at the eleventh hour.

That left the French clinging on in the qualification race and they required results from elsewhere to ensure they qualified as the seventh-placed team in Pool B for the round of 16 stage. There they beat Ulster over two legs before squeezing past Munster in a quarter-final penalty shootout in Dublin.

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Toulouse then had to return to the Aviva Stadium a week later for their semi-final with Leinster where they eventually came unstuck and relinquished their grasp on a trophy they won for the fifth time last year when beating La Rochelle in London.

They now play La Rochelle again this Saturday, the pair clashing in the Top 14 playoffs, and ahead of that showdown between the respective 2021 and 2022 European champions, Toulouse president Didier Lacroix has revisited what happened to them in Europe over the pool stages which culminated in them threatening legal action against EPCR if they didn’t qualify for the knockout stages.

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Featured on rugbyrama.fr, Lacroix said: “We are satisfied to have played a fourth consecutive semi-final in Europe but I still have the scenario of the group stage in my throat with these two games cancelled. I remain furious with the organisers because the two games that were taken away from us led to a mediocre qualification.

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“All of this leaves a lot of bitterness. Even with the exception of my strong demonstrations at the time of the decision to cancel the match against Cardiff, I find that we are rather silent on the subject.

“Isn’t it annoying to be told every time, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll still make it’? The problem is that the day you don’t make it, the guy will forget this sentence. You qualify hard and the organisers think that’s enough for you.”

Lacroix also addressed concerns that players in France play too many matches. “I do think that some people play too many matches even if it is far from being an excuse when you lose. At Stade Toulousain, this problem is on the table for a long time.

“Today, we can clearly see that in the Top 14 all the rules aim to balance the debates, to prevent a team from taking over the leadership alone for a while. The stadiums are full and the players are becoming stars. So much the better, even if that poses another problem.”

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