French club outraged after being booted out for COVID cases
CHALLENGE CUP: Castres were thrown out of the European Challenge Cup on Saturday, 24 hours before their quarterfinal in Leicester, because of four Covid-19 positives.
The French club confirmed that three players and one manager tested positive before the team’s departure to England.
The limit for a match to take place is three, said EPCR, the organiser of the European club rugby competitions.
“The decision followed a meeting of a Medical Committee comprising medical leads from the unions, league bodies and both clubs, and subsequent independent medical advice,” EPCR said in a statement.
“Castres have to forfeit the match and Leicester will qualify for the Challenge Cup semifinals.”
Castres were outraged, releasing a statement that denouncing the “amateurism” of EPCR.
“No specific rules, including on a maximum number of cases, appear in the EPCR rules, which seems to be amateurism unworthy of a European competition,” Castres wrote.
“The decision to disqualify Castres, even before the results of the new tests are known, leaves players, staff and the public confused and frustrated at not being able to play this long-awaited quarterfinal.”
The forfeit is a first for professional rugby.
On the resumption of European rugby after the long coronavirus interruption, EPCR adopted a tight schedule to complete its 2019-20 competitions with only a week between the quarterfinals and semifinals which allows no room for postponements.
Leicester join Bristol and Bordeaux-Begles, who qualified on the pitch, in the last four.
Castres have forfeited the tie and Leicester Tigers will advance to the semi-finals ⬇️https://t.co/NAmBpGO1vCADVERTISEMENT
— Challenge Cup (@ERChallengeCup) September 19, 2020
*Bordeaux-Begles reached a European semifinal for the first time after beating visiting Edinburgh 23-14.
Victory gives Bordeaux-Begles a chance to salvage something from a 2019-20 season that was going so well until the coronavirus pandemic ended the French Top 14 campaign in March when they were leading the league.
In front of 1,000 noisy fans at Stade Chaban-Delmas, the home side scored two tries in the opening eight minutes through Argentina’s Santiago Cordero and Jean-Baptiste Dubie. France fly-half Mathieu Jalibert converted both.
“Even with 1,000 spectators, we heard them a lot,” said captain Jefferson Poirot. “You have to tip your hat to them.”
A Jalibert penalty put Bordeaux-Begles 17-6 up 50 minutes.
But playing only their second competitive match since club rugby resumed in France, coach Christophe Urios’ team began to make mistakes and the Scottish visitors fought back with a try by winger Damien Hoyland.
With 10 minutes to go, the hosts were reduced to 14 men when Tonga prop Ben Tameifuna earned a yellow card and Blair Kinghorn cut the lead to six points from the subsequent penalty.
But the home defence held and Ben Botica sealed victory with a last-minute penalty.
“Physically, they are more ready than us,” Jalibert said. “We started the match with a big lead, we caught them by the throat at the start and little by little we lost momentum, we started to make mistakes and they came back.”