French officials hopeful of Euro Finals
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: French officials haven’t given up hope yet that Marseille can still host this season’s Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals despite the coronavirus outbreak.
With the April 3/5 quarter-final fixture schedule on ice due to the outbreak and no firm indication that the clubs involved will definitely be back playing domestic rugby by the end of April, especially as France is currently on lockdown, there is an acceptance that the European finals won’t be going ahead as planned on May 22 and 23.
Defending Champions Cup champions Saracens were among the teams still in the hunt for silverware as they were due in Dublin to take on Leinster in an April 4 quarter-final.
However, rather than scratch the tournaments entirely, one hypothesis in France is that the showpiece deciders could be held over until July and played two months after originally planned.
If there is a resumption in the rugby season, French officials apparently want to focus first on their suspended Top 14.
Only 17 of the 26 regulation season rounds of fixtures have been played, but there is a suggestion that the scheduling of midweek fixtures can clear the backlog and ensure that the planned June 26 final at Stade de France can go ahead as planned.
Only then would thoughts turn to Europe and finishing out those competitions. “We are studying all the possibilities,” said a source in a Midi Olympique story.
“We notably noticed that the Velodrome stadium in Marseille could possibly be free in July. But this is only one of several working hypotheses for the moment… we can only really move forward when we know a little more about the evolution of the epidemic.”
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EPCR postponed its quarter-finals last Monday but insisted they were committed to finding a solution which would allow the campaign to be completed.
“Amid growing public health concerns due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the decision was taken during a conference call… to postpone the eight matches on the weekend in question and to suspend the European club rugby season,” read a statement.
“EPCR’s priority is the health and welfare of players and club staff, and an update regarding the knockout stages of the tournaments will be communicated to all stakeholders as soon as practicable.”