By Duncan Bech, PA
All postponed matches from round two of the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have now been cancelled, while uncertainty continues to hover over the remainder of the group phase.
Following a board meeting, tournament organiser EPCR has conceded defeat in its effort to find a new slot in an already-packed rugby calendar for the seven games that could not be staged last month as a result of travel restrictions brought in by the French government.
It has been decided to record the five Champions Cup fixtures and two from the Challenge Cup as 0-0 draws.
EPCR Board update on the postponed Round 2 matches 👉 https://t.co/v93XV0M4rb
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) January 11, 2022
The same safety measures imposed on travellers to and from the UK still threaten the final two rounds of the pool stage despite exemptions being secured for what is termed the “pursuit of an economic activity”, relaxing the rules for players, coaching staff and officials.
Clubs travelling to France, however, are concerned about the quarantine rule, which requires negative Covid-19 tests to leave isolation. Any positive PCR or antigen test would lead to a longer quarantine period in the country.
The PA news agency understands that on Tuesday evening the outlook on modified quarantine rules being granted by Paris remained hopeful, reducing the threat of a boycott by English teams who fear the potential for players being left in France.
Bath, Sale and the Scarlets are due to play European Cup games in France against La Rochelle, Clermont Auvergne and Bordeaux-Begles respectively on Saturday and Sunday.
Newcastle, meanwhile, are scheduled to visit Challenge Cup opponents Biarritz on Friday.
For the round two games, rather than issue a 28-0 defeat to one team as happens in the event of an outbreak of coronavirus, it has been decided a scoreless draw is a more appropriate outcome.
“The matches were initially postponed following the unforeseen introduction of new travel measures between the UK and France, which resulted in EPCR being unable to obtain assurances that existing cross-border travel exemptions for players, club staff and match officials would remain in place,” a statement read.
“The options of modifying the tournament formats and/or rescheduling the matches were deliberated in great detail by all parties.
“However, in an increasingly complex fixture calendar due to Covid, it was regrettably decided that the only choice in the circumstances was to cancel the matches.
“On the basis that none of the clubs involved were in a position to play once the EPCR board had postponed the seven matches, the only option open to the EPCR executive was to record the results as 0-0 draws and to award two match points to each club.”