French rugby leaders have condemned the decision to cancel Saturday’s Champions Cup match between Toulouse and Cardiff as “outrageous and totally unfounded”.
Rene Bouscatel, the president of the Ligue Nationale de Rugby that oversees the French professional game, said the directors of LNR will meet “urgently” when possible legal action is discussed. The match, which was scheduled to take place in Toulouse, was canceled after a number of positive Covid-19 tests in the hosts’ camp. Tournament organizer European Professional Club Rugby said Cardiff had won the match 28-0 by five match points.
It leaves Toulouse’s hopes of reaching the knockout stage hanging by a thread. They are currently seventh in Pool B – a position good enough for progress – but could now miss out if other results disappoint this weekend.
It also puts Cardiff in the qualifier photo, which in itself is notable after they tackled Toulouse and Harlequins before Christmas without many players due to quarantine in South Africa – where they had played two games of the United Rugby Championship – and on their return to the UK.
Toulouse, meanwhile, had designated and published a team for the game ahead of the announcement of Friday’s cancellation. In a statement, LNR said: “Following the EPCR’s announcement to cancel the Champions Cup match between Stade Toulousain and Cardiff Rugby, the LNR condemns an outrageous and totally unfounded decision.
“Toulouse has assembled a group of players to form a team fit to play the match, in full compliance with the EPCR health regulations and the French health protocol. The EPCR’s Covid-19 protocol provides that the EPCR applies and defers the protocol established by the league to which each club belongs, and adheres to the position of the medical authority of this league regarding a club’s opportunity to play the match when it has been declared positive.
“In the case of Stade Toulousain, the NRL’s Covid-19 Expertise Committee (LNR) communicated its position to the EPCR on Thursday evening 20 January – this position being that the club could play the match against Cardiff Rugby. The EPCR’s decision is therefore taken in violation of its own regulations. It is incomprehensible and seriously damages the club and the fairness of the competition.”
Bouscatel added: “The Champions Cup is a very prestigious competition. The organizers cannot afford to make arbitrary decisions that are contrary to their own regulations. This decision is irresponsible. I have decided to convene an LNR board of directors as a matter of urgency to discuss the follow-up, including legal action, to be taken in response to this decision.”
Cardiff’s squad and management had not yet left Wales as their scheduled charter flight from Cardiff airport was canceled on Friday morning. EPCR said: “Discussions with Stade Toulousain and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby took place before the match risk assessment committee, made up of doctors from the EPCR Medical Advisory Group and independent medical specialists, informed EPCR of its concerns as Stade Toulousain had registered a significant number of positive Covid-19 test results within the tournament team. And because the risk of further contamination was considered too great, it was unfortunately decided to cancel the match.”
Leicester’s Champions Cup match at home against Bordeaux-Begles on Saturday has also been cancelled. EPCR said Bordeaux-Begles had recorded some positive Covid-19 test results with the playing squad and was unable to fulfill the match. Leicester, which had already qualified for the knockout stage, also fell 28-0 and five match points.
Newcastle’s European Challenge Cup game against Toulon on Saturday has also been canceled due to coronavirus cases at the Premiership club. EPCR said Newcastle had informed them that they were unable to fulfill the match at Stade Felix-Mayol. The Falcons said nine positive Covid-19 tests had been recorded following Newcastle’s European Challenge Cup trip to Biarritz seven days ago. As a result, Public Health England advised Newcastle not to travel to France.