European Cups: threat of boycott of French clubs recedes, Bayonne ready to return – European Cups

Monday evening’s meeting with the EPCR should result in a modification of the questionable health protocol. The Presidents of the Top 14 are meeting this Tuesday evening to take a common position. Bayonne, which had announced its withdrawal, would be ready to reverse its decision.

Considered by some French clubs – Bayonne officially, Stade Français, Toulon and Castres unofficially – the specter of a boycott of the European cups seems to be receding. According to AFP, the EPCR, organizer of continental competitions, would agree to modify its health protocol in order to respond to the concerns of the leaders of French professional rugby. The videoconference meeting between the EPCR and the medical officials of the three leagues involved (Top 14, English Premiership, Celtic Pro 14) made it possible to “put things back on track”, according to Bernard Dusfour, president of the medical commission of the NRL and active participant in the videoconference.

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“Faced with the obvious, we got into tune. We discussed, negotiated, we tried to scratch one day … I’m optimistic: they should rewrite the process. We have moved forward. The English said ” yes ”, a little restrained but they agreed with us, “the doctor told AFP. In question, the disparity between the protocol set up in Top 14, with a test three days before the match, and that established across the Channel, where the clubs are tested at the beginning of the week. As a result, four matches (Scarlets-Toulon and La Rochelle-Bath in the Champions Cup; Benetton Trévise-Agen and Cardiff Blues-Stade français in the European Challenge) were canceled due to positive cases in different squads.

«If tomorrow, the protocol matches, we will comply»

Philippe Tayeb, president of Bayonne

The European protocol should therefore be reinforced for the next few days, with tests carried out 72 hours before the start of the matches. Responding to the requirements of the NRL posed before the meeting on Monday: “the EPCR health protocol must evolve to provide security guarantees to the teams competing in the European Cups”. According to the governing body, via a press release, this “meeting proved to be productive. The conclusions of the meeting will be communicated as soon as possible. “

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A commitment that could change the position of Aviron Bayonnais. Affected by the British variant of the virus after the reception of Leicester on December 19, the Basque club had announced that it would not play the last two days of the competition, on January 15 and 22. “If tomorrow, the protocol matches, we will comply. I always said ‘as it is’. If they change, I am not crazier than the others ”, Bayonnais President Philippe Tayeb told the daily newspaper South West, opening the door to European matches in Bayonne. While stressing that “if the EPCR protocol is well modeled on that of the NRL, it is confirmation that there were indeed errors.” The EPCR also specified in its press release “that no club participating in the Champions Cup or the Challenge Cup has officially informed it of its intention not to participate in the remaining matches of the 2020/2021 season.”

Meeting of the Presidents of the Top 14 this Tuesday

A meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at the end of the day between the presidents of the Top 14 clubs to discuss the subject. Questioned by Midi Olympique, the president of Racing 92 assured that, in their great majority, the Top 14 clubs do not wish to withdraw. “Already, it should not be said that several presidents want to boycott European competitions. It’s wrong. Me, I’ve never heard of that. They may be one or two, including that of Bayonne. (…) We must improve the health protocol of the EPCR, but doing away with the European Cup would be a total regression. At the sporting level, it is essential in French rugby as in Anglo-Saxon rugby, because it is a higher level of competition and play, or different, from the Top 14. (…) And then, there are financial commitments vis-à-vis with respect to the EPCR and TV broadcasters. If we no longer play the European Cup, it will be a shortfall of 70 million euros for the clubs, it’s huge. ” An argument that should carry all its weight in the discussion to come.

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