Former England wing Chris Ashton has criticised the decision to take a break instead of filling the void left by the postponement of two rounds of European action with Premiership games. The Champions and Challenge Cups have been placed on hold after the French government barred their clubs from taking part in cross-border competitions because of coronavirus concerns.
Rob Baxter, Pat Lam and Lee Blackett – the directors of rugby of title challengers Exeter, Bristol and Wasps respectively – called for Premiership fixtures to be brought forward to enable English teams to continue playing.
Premiership Rugby, however, has chosen to implement a break on welfare grounds and Ashton, the Harlequins finisher who won 44 caps for England, believes it is the wrong call.
“It’s not ideal for us as players,” Ashton told the BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast. “We were due to play anyway so I don’t think it matters what competition it is – if it was European or carrying on in the Premiership.
“The last thing teams want is to go two weekends without a game. We need game time and need to keep playing, it just makes the competition healthy and keeps everyone fit and firing. It’s not ideal for us as players, but as always we will train for the next two weeks and try to put that in when we get back to playing.”
Premiership Rugby's decision to circuit-break the season for a fortnight, has left many in the game befuddled and frustrated.@OwainJTJones argues the decision has left more questions than answers.https://t.co/WT0tffQwRK
— The XV (@TheXV) January 12, 2021
There has no update yet on when the two postponed European pool rounds of fixtures might take place. French government officials wanted it clubs to not play on the weekends of January 16 and 23 due to concerns surrounding the pandemic which stemmed from the December two rounds of fixtures.
The decision to postpone European fixtures scheduled for the weekends of 16 and 23 January came after the French government decreed its clubs should not play in the competitions this month. England’s decision not to alter the Premiership’s fixture list has now left a two-week gap in a schedule that will be packed when the from January 29 through to the end of the season.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 12, 2021
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