Coronavirus: French sports ministry wants rugby games against British clubs postponed
Concerns over the new strain of coronavirus prompted the Ministries of Interior, Health and Sport to hold talks with EPCR, who run the Heineken Champions and Challenge Cups, and LNR, the representative body for the Top 14
Last Updated: 09/01/21 9:03pm
The French sports ministry is recommending that games against British clubs in this season's European competitions are postponed due to issues surrounding Covid-19, according to sources in France.
"The Sports Ministry is writing this weekend to the National Rugby League (LNR) to invite it to postpone the next matches including French clubs (against British clubs), in accordance with the wishes expressed by several professional French rugby clubs over the last few days," the ministry wrote in a statement to Reuters.
Concerns over the new strain of coronavirus prompted the Ministries of Interior, Health and Sport to hold talks with European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR), who run the Heineken Champions and Challenge Cups, and LNR, the representative body for the Top 14.
If France's clubs are unable to compete in the remaining two rounds of group-stage fixtures, the competitions could be suspended.
Another possible outcome is for a number of matches to be cancelled, a course of action that would damage the credibility of the tournaments.
If the Top 14 clubs do not compete this month - Bayonne and Toulon have already threatened withdrawal - it could have implications for the Six Nations.
An EPCR spokesman said: "EPCR is aware of a formal communication that has been sent by the French authorities to the LNR this evening (Saturday, January 9) regarding the participation of Top 14 clubs in the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.
"No directive has been given, and the LNR has been asked by the French government for its position on protocols for its clubs playing in EPCR's tournaments against the backdrop of the recent detection of a new strain of coronavirus in France.
"EPCR will now discuss this matter with the LNR as soon as possible before making any further comment."
The sports ministry added that it would set up a specific meeting on the Six Nations at the beginning of next week, without saying who would take part.
France play their opening two games away next month - against Italy on February 6 and Ireland on February 14. They are also due to face England at Twickenham on March 13.
A Six Nations statement said: "We are planning the hold the championship as scheduled in each country with Covid-19 protocols that have been reinforced from October/November period that saw the successful conclusion of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations and the Autumn Nations Cup."
Earlier this week, the French health ministry said 22 cases of new variants of the coronavirus had been detected in France.
The ministry also said in a statement that two high-risk clusters that may include the new Covid-19 variant first detected in Britain had been found in the Brittany and Paris regions.