WARRIORS are among the English teams to be plunged into a two-week winter break after European rugby chiefs’ sudden suspension of this season’s competitions.
The Sixways side were due to face Ospreys on Friday and Pau next Saturday (January 23) but all European Rugby Challenge Cup matches along with all of those in the Champions Cup were axed by organisers European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) on Monday.
EPCR decided to temporarily suspend both European competitions due to concerns from French authorities about the potential spread of the new strain of COVID-19 in the UK and Ireland.
The decision came following a directive from the French authorities who said 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 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.
But, against the backdrop of the recent detection of a new strain of coronavirus, the French government has directed 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.
“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,” a spokesman said.
As a result, Premiership Rugby bosses announced exhausted clubs would be given a two-week break from action.
Warriors were among the Premiership sides who fulfilled nine fixtures in just under eight weeks to end the delayed 2019/20 season and kicked off the 2020/21 season just four weeks later.
“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,” said Darren Childs, CEO of Premiership Rugby.
The decision by EPCR means Warriors will next be in action against Exeter Chiefs, the reigning Premiership champio