Toulon owner Bernard Lemaitre has slammed the decision to cancel his team’s Heineken Champions Cup round of 16 match at Leinster less than five hours before the scheduled Friday evening kickoff in Dublin. The French club had declared a positive Covid-19 test in their squad to tournament organisers EPCR on Wednesday.
There was no major issue with this at the time, EPCR giving Toulon the go-ahead to travel to Dublin minus the player who had tested positive. However, the outlook eventually changed and the match that was due to be played at the RDS was cancelled only hours before it was due to start.
French website rugbyrama.fr quoted a furious Lemaitre following the cancellation, saying: “It’s disgusting. The player tested positive on Wednesday and immediately isolated. The EPCR was immediately informed but let us go to Dublin for more than 24 hours and despite a total negative re-test of the players last night [Thursday] at 8pm, these people made this decision less than five hours before the match.”
It’s the second time Toulon have travelled for an away Champions Cup match this season only for it not to take place. Last December they had arrived in Wales to take on Scarlets but they never left Cardiff airport due to concerns over the integrity of the safety bubble surrounding the game.
EPCR blamed Toulon for that cancellation and awarded Scarlets a 28-0 win, and the boardroom outcome has been similar on this occasion. The French were again deemed to be at fault and were eliminated from the tournament, leaving Leinster to progress to a quarter-final next weekend away to the winners of this Saturday’s Exeter versus Lyon match.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 2, 2021
To defend themselves, Toulon have now published a statement on social media. It read: “Rugby Club Toulonnais learned this Friday with amazement of the decision to cancel tonight’s match in Leinster due to the presence of a positive case for Covid-19 in the red and black squad.
“While the PCR tests performed on the entire squad on Monday, March 29, all had negative results, the tests carried out on Wednesday, March 31, revealed a positive case, that of a frontline player of the RCT. In accordance with protocol, the RCT leaders then immediately notified the EPCR and the LNR. The player in question was placed in solitary confinement.
“The EPCR responded a few hours later to ask further questions of the RCT doctor. The latter then answered the entire questionnaire submitted. The EPCR then requested ‘contact tracing’ for the player in question.
“The RCT provided it as soon as possible, specifying that the departure for Ireland was set for Thursday morning, April 1). The EPCR then analysed, with the support of an independent doctor, the ‘contact tracing’ file provided by the RCT.
“At the end (late Thursday afternoon), the EPCR asked the club to perform a new PCR test on the entire red and black squad in Ireland. These tests were therefore carried out last night in the Irish capital and all the results came out negative.
“Finally, the EPCR considered this Friday morning (a few hours before the match) that front row players were considered contact cases and that they could not take part in the match, offering the possibility of shifting the meeting to Sunday on condition of replacing the six front row players. An obvious sporting impossibility…
“This is once again proof of the errors linked to the organisation of European competitions. The EPCR left the players and staff to travel to Ireland, prepare for the match, only to deprive them a few hours before kickoff of taking part in this major event. Rugby Club Toulonnais strongly deplores this decision and sends its thoughts to all its supporters who were impatiently awaiting this meeting.”
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— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 31, 2021
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