This season's Heineken Champions Cup has been suspended.
Tournament organisers the EPCR confirmed the move following a request from the French Ministry for Sport.
Despite the promise of more meticulous safety protocols, French authorities became increasingly more concerned with the recently detected British strain of COVID-19.
The EPCR say they "had no choice but to temporarily suspend the pool stage of the Heineken Champions Cup and the preliminary stage of the Challenge Cup."
The Champions Cup was due to resume with the third round of pool fixtures on Friday. Among them was Leinster's trip to Northampton Saints.
EPCR chief executive Vincent Gaillard said on Monday morning, "We have four weekends currently scheduled over the month of April and May, but have six weekends required to finish the season."
He added, "I think a possible suspension is what we're looking at, but we are very confident that those weekends we have scheduled in April and May will be used in one way or another."
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 today (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.
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