European competitions temporarily suspended

Monday 11 January 2021

Newcastle Falcons' next two games against Castres (January 16) and Cardiff Blues (January 23) will not go ahead as scheduled following the temporary suspension of the European Challenge Cup.

Tournament organisers EPCR confirmed the news on Monday following discussions with the French government.

Details on the make-up of the remainder of the competition have not yet been finalised, and will be communicated in due course.

Newcastle Falcons' next game will therefore be the Gallagher Premiership trip to London Irish on January 31.

A statement from EPCR said:

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.

Premiership Rugby on Monday confirmed they had no plans to fill the two vacant weekends with domestic league fixtures, saying in a statement:

Premiership Rugby can confirm that it will take a two-week, mid-season break after European competitions were temporarily suspended by EPCR.

Premiership Rugby chief executive, Darren Childs said: "The welfare of everyone involved in Premiership Rugby is crucial to us and this break in the season gives us the chance to hand some much-needed rest to our hard-working players, management, staff and match officials.

"The Gallagher Premiership Rugby season will return - as scheduled - on Friday 29 January when Bristol Bears host Bath Rugby live on BT Sport."

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