The last two rounds of group matches of the Champions and Challenge Cup will go directly to the knockout phase, confirmed Premiership Rugby.
He The French government has prevented the top 14 clubs from competing in cross-border competition this month due to fears about the Kent strain of the coronavirus, That has skyrocketed the number of cases in England.
The group’s remaining two rounds were initially postponed, but PRL CEO Darren Childs says they have now been abandoned due to lack of space on a schedule that is already full.
The EPCR tournament organizers will decide within the fortnight which format the competitions should take, with a knockout phase initiated by the round of 16 as the most likely option.
“The EPCR executive made the decision very quickly that we would not attempt to reschedule those games,” Childs said.
“We have a difficult season. There is no room at the end of the season due to the Lions tour and we do not have weekends off in our season once we resume.
“Playing European rounds when the Lions are played would have been very detrimental to the European tournament. So the CEOs of the three leagues decided very quickly that we would complete the tournament on the remaining four weekends.
“Everyone manages their national and international calendars the best they can. The exact structure has not been agreed and we have already started those discussions. “
Upon learning of the French government’s decision on Monday, PRL chose to implement a break rather than advance Premiership matches to fill empty weekends.
The decision not to change the league’s existing schedule was made to protect the well-being of the players and staff, especially medically.
“We have had 70 players in the last three weeks who have tested positive for COVID. In that period of time we lost five games, ”said PRL rugby director Phil Winstanley, according to the Planet Rugby website.
“It made absolutely no sense to advance games later in the season to this period, when COVID is at its highest prevalence and highest risk.
“Moving them forward would give us the best chance of losing those games and determining the outcome by assigning points. That makes no sense.
“From a public health perspective, in the last 24 hours he has seen serious concerns about the sport right now and how he presents himself.
“By not moving games, this has given us an opportunity to give ourselves a break and support the health and well-being of some of the players.”
The last two rounds of group matches in European competitions will not take place, but will go directly to the knockout stages.