European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) has temporarily suspended its Champions Cup and Challenge Cup competitions after the French government ruled that its clubs should not compete due to continued concerns relating to COVID-19.

EPCR met last week with France’s Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) and French government officials to discuss the competitions’ COVID-19 protocols. After the French authorities decided that playing matches represented too great a risk, the EPCR has been forced to postpone fixtures scheduled for the next two weekends.

The EPCR had presented a number of protocols to the French authorities, including the addition of PCR tests no earlier than three days before matches and contact tracing measures.

The French government has directed that the country’s Top 14 clubs postpone their participation in EPCR tournaments following the recent detection of a new strain of coronavirus.

EPCR said it has been left with “no choice” but to temporarily suspend the pool stage of the Champions Cup and the preliminary stage of the Challenge Cup. EPCR said it would look to find a solution which will enable the resumption and completion of the tournaments as soon as practicable.

Following the suspension of the EPCR competitions, the LNR has announced that a number of postponed Top 14 matches will be held this weekend instead. A steering committee will also meet to discuss the possibility of staging further postponed matches on the weekend of January 23-24.

England’s Premiership Rugby has taken a different stance to the LNR and will take a two-week mid-season break following the suspension of EPCR competitions. The Premiership season will return on January 29.

Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs said: “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.”

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