The European Rugby Union calendar is set to suffer major disruptions after France essentially closed its border with the UK as fears over Omicron continue to rise.
Friday night’s European Cup match between Leinster and Montpellier was the first match of round two to be cancelled on Thursday, with more set to follow suit as the Champions and Challenge Cups are under threat.
After ‘new positive test results’ were found at the Irish province, Montpellier were awarded a 28-0 forfeit win. Leinster said they were ‘disappointed’ with the outcome, particularly as there was Covid in both camps and they were cleared to play by their government after players went through nine rounds of tests this week.
Six other Champions Cup games – as well as three Challenge Cup clashes – are in danger of being cancelled after the French government announced nobody from France can enter or leave the UK without ‘an essential reason to travel’, regardless of their vaccination status.
The move was announced on Friday night, prompting European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) to meet with French club bosses last night to try and figure out whether elite sport would be exempt from this new ruling.
The Champions Cup matches affected would be Bath v La Rochelle, Sale v Clermont, Racing 92 v Ospreys, Scarlets v Bordeaux, Toulouse v Wasps and Stade Francais v Bristol while Dragons v Lyon, Worcester v Biarritz, and London Irish v Brive in the Challenge Cup would have to be cancelled too.
Whether the matches are contested or not, clubs face huge bills as it costs approximately £75,000 to attend a European match on the road. Covid tests for around 45 players and staff are needed alongside hotel rooms and return flights.
After leaving isolation following their trip to South Africa, which is on the red list, the Scarlets were unable to play Bristol last week and the Bears lost £300,000 in refunded tickets and lost match-day revenue.
“More teams potentially will face that this week,” commented boss Pat Lam. “It’s going to take its toll at a time when right across the clubs there’s not much money at all.
“If games are cancelled lots of clubs will take big hits.”
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