The EPCR, organizer of the Champions Cup, lost the match 28-0 to Stade Toulousain, defending champion, due to Covid-19 contamination in the ranks of the French club. The club, however, ensured that it had sufficient staff to play, according to the starting XV revealed on its social networks even before the scheduled time.
French rugby is crying foul after the cancellation this Friday by the organizer of the European Cup of the Toulouse-Cardiff match, which the defending champion, declared a 28-0 loser on green carpet, considered himself able to play despite a dozen Covid-19 contaminations in its ranks. The five-time European champion no longer has his destiny in his hands until the end of the fourth and final day of the group stage. But it would now take an improbable scenario, after the defeat on the wire of Castres at Harlequins on Friday evening (36-33), for him to be deprived of the knockout stages.
Furious, the president of Stade Toulousain Didier Lacroix denounced in a long speech a “completely unacceptable” decision which “calls into question the credibility of the mode of operation of the EPCR (European Professional Club Rugby)”, the organizing body continental competitions. He considers his club, the most successful in the history of the European Cup, a victim of “injustice” and “disrespect” when he was, according to him, “able to play” on Saturday against the Welsh. “What I find incredibly scandalous is that the EPCR does not apply the rules that have been laid down,” he accused.
“The European Cup is distorted and discredited”
The health protocols in force in each championship should normally apply in the European Cup to the clubs concerned. Namely, for France, have 23 players, including at least six front row and 15 professionals, so that a match can be held. Criteria met by the Haut-Garonne club, according to the starting XV revealed on its social networks even before the scheduled time.
“The organizer of the European Cup cannot afford to take arbitrary decisions which are contrary to its own regulations. The European Cup is distorted and discredited after the cancellation of the match of Toulouse against Cardiff It is an iniquitous decision”, reacted in a press release the president of the National Rugby League (LNR) René Bouscatel, in solidarity with the Toulouse Stadium, which he chaired for a long time. The EPCR justified its choice to cancel the match by “a significant number of positive results” for Covid-19 in the Toulouse workforce and an “additional risk of contamination having been deemed too great”.
The case will go to court
“Today we feel anger,” responded the Toulouse players in a statement. “EPCR flouts the rules and condemns us to a defeat on the green carpet without valid and admissible reason. The injustice that lives in us is equal to our frustration.” The matter should be taken to court. “This decision is legally challengeable,” said Didier Lacroix. “Not for sporting reasons, because the damage has already been done, but for economic reasons. And because there is a total lack of respect.”
The four home matches the Rouge et Noir were due to play in recent weeks – against Wasps, Stade Français, Montpellier and now Cardiff – have all been postponed or canceled due to Covid-19.
A decision that impacts the club’s finances
A big financial shortfall for the club, which was to play the first two sold out. And a sporting blow between the 0-0 draw decided by the EPCR for that of the Wasps and the rescheduling of the Top 14 matches during the Six Nations Tournament, in the absence of many internationals.
The Toulouse management did not wish to communicate the exact number of contaminations in its ranks, nor the identity of the players affected, but several internationals, usually holders, did not appear in the composition announced for the reception of Cardiff: Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack, Cyril Baille, Peato Mauvaka and Anthony Jelonch.
Another French club, Bordeaux-Bègles, was declared a 28-0 loser on green carpet after the cancellation of its meeting scheduled for the next day in Leicester on Friday, for the same reasons. A less penalizing decision for the UBB, already mathematically qualified for the round of 16 of the competition.