Heineken Champions Cup has been temporarily suspended

The Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have been temporarily suspended, European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) has announced this evening.

Connacht Rugby were due to travel to Bristol Bears in round three on Sunday next, January 17, and then host Racing 92 in round four on Saturday week, January 23.

The statement announcing the decision to suspend the tournaments reads as follows:

Following a directive from the French authorities that the participation of TOP 14 clubs in the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup at the current time constitutes too great a public health risk, EPCR has no choice but to announce on Monday, 11 January that the 2020/21 tournaments are temporarily suspended.

EPCR and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby took part in a meeting by audio conference last week with representatives of the French ministries of the Interior, Health and Sport, as well as of the President’s office.

Notable updates to EPCR’s Covid-19 protocols were presented to the French authorities, including the addition of PCR tests no earlier than three days before matches in the tournaments, conforming to French government guidelines and supplementing the existing, meticulous contact tracing measures put in place with a view to limiting the risk of transmission.

Against the backdrop of the recent detection of a new strain of coronavirus, the French government has directed that French clubs postpone their participation in EPCR’s tournaments for the month of January, both for matches scheduled in France and for those due to be played in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

On the basis of this directive, EPCR had no choice but to temporarily suspend the pool stage of the Heineken Champions Cup and the preliminary stage of the Challenge Cup.

While respecting all further directives by governments and local authorities, and prioritising the health and welfare of players and club staff, EPCR, in conjunction with its shareholder leagues and unions, remains committed to trying to find a solution which will enable it to resume and complete the tournaments as soon as practicable.

EPCR will be making no further comment at the present time.

Connacht Rugby are due to resume competitive action in the Guinness PRO14 competition on Friday, February 5, against Dragons at Rodney Parade.

In their last outing on Saturday last, Connacht were beaten by Conference B leaders Munster despite a spirited late surge by the hosts in The Sportsground, Galway.

In this abbreviated season of PRO14 rugby, the top teams in Conference A and Conference B advance straight to the final. Munster's win has put them in the driving seat in Conference B ahead of the western province in second place, and should they qualify for the final they will play either Ulster or Leinster in the decider.

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