The Covid threat. The European Rugby Cup, the second day of which is to be played from Friday to Sunday, is again disrupted by the pandemic, with the cancellation of the Montpellier-Leinster match and new travel restrictions between France and the United Kingdom. United.
. No business trips
The news fell on Thursday morning, taking the various players in European rugby by surprise: the French government announced, as of Saturday, to restore the obligation of « compelling reasons » for travelers from and to the United Kingdom in the face of » extremely rapid diffusion of the Omicron variant ».
Thus, « from this Saturday morning at midnight », there will be « an obligation to have a compelling reason to go to or come from the United Kingdom, for unvaccinated people as well as vaccinated people » but these reasons « do not will not allow travel for tourist or professional reasons », specified the government.
This complicates the affairs of La Rochelle (on the move to Bath), Clermont (to Sale), Castres (in Munster), Bordeaux-Bègles (Scarlets). But also those of Racing 92 (which hosts the Ospreys), Stade Toulouse (Wasps) and Stade Français (Bristol).
« The EPCR is in contact with the French authorities in order to understand the new measures announced and to assess the impact on the matches of the 2nd day, » the organizers also explained to AFP.
A meeting took place in the evening between the clubs, the various leagues (LNR, Premiership, United Rugby Championship) and the EPCR to take stock of the situation. The French teams concerned by travel hope to benefit from an exemption but no decision has been taken in this direction. A new meeting is scheduled for Friday morning according to a representative of the Top 14.
. Case multiplication
Even before the French announcements, the European Cup was threatened. The multiplication of positive cases in the teams on both sides of the Channel has even raised the specter of last season. In January, the last two days of the group stage had been canceled due, already, to the very rapid expansion of a variant of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom.
Regarding the 2021-2022 campaign, the first day had already seen the cancellation of Bristol-Scarlets after the placement in quarantine of around thirty members of the Welsh team, players and staff.
For the 2nd day, the meeting between Montpellier and Leinster, scheduled for Friday, was also canceled after new Covid-19 contaminations within Leinster and Montpellier is declared the winner on the green carpet, announced the EPCR.
Uncertainty hangs over the Racing 92 – Ospreys match, scheduled for Saturday. Welsh Province manager Toby Booth has reported « around seven cases » identified in his squad.
In the « small » European Cup, the European Challenge, the match between Pau and Saracens was canceled due to too many cases in the English club. Four positive cases in Lyon balance the holding of the trip to Newport, to the Welsh Dragons.
The Covid-19 also affected football: the Premier League postponed six new meetings on Thursday.
The left pillar of Racing 92 Eddy Ben Arous, questioned on the subject Thursday during a press briefing, was however philosophical. « Compared to the 2020-2021 season, it has nothing to do. There was no one in the stands, countless matches had been moved. Today, we are very far from all that, » said he asserted.
. Toulouse to confirm, UBB to catch up
If the rest of the matches were to take place, the seven Top 14 clubs in the running will have to do better than on the 1st day: with only three victories, those of Racing 92, Toulouse and La Rochelle, the hexagonal record does not is not really good.
The UBB, narrowly beaten by Leicester (16-13), will be keen to recover in front of the Scarlets.
For its part, Racing will want to confirm its good form regained against the Ospreys while the Toulouse holder faces the Wasps, the opportunity to reunite for the second line of the Red and Black and the Blues Thibaud Flament, passed by the English club before land in the Southwest.