Leinster to appeal Montpellier cancellation after receiving EPCR assurances

Leinster will appeal EPCR’s decision to cancel their Heineken Champions Cup pool match against Montpellier due to take place at the GGL stadium last Friday night and instead award the French club a bonus point, 28-0 victory.

The Irish province will make a formal request to the EPCR board for the game to be re-fixed on the basis that Leinster had complied with all EPCR requests in the build-up to ensure that the game could go ahead.

The Irish Times understands that the province received assurances from EPCR last Wednesday that the game could go ahead provided that they fulfilled a number of criteria in relation to their Covid-19 issues. Leinster disclosed all the relevant information including updated Covid-19 case numbers last Wednesday and were encouraged to carry on with the preparations for the match.

Leinster’s matchday 23 completed four rounds of PCR tests and five rounds of antigen tests without a single positive case. Both the Irish and French health authorities had signed off on Leinster travelling to Montpellier. EPCR pulled the game on Thursday, awarding the bonus point victory to the French club.

The official communiqué read: “The contest in Pool A is therefore cancelled with Montpellier Hérault Rugby awarded the match on a 28-0, five match points basis, in accordance with the Tournament Rules.

“The Match Risk Assessment Committee, made up of medical doctors from EPCR’s Medical Advisory Group as well as an independent medical specialist with experience in virology, advised EPCR of its concerns following new positive Covid-19 test results from the Leinster Rugby playing squad, and regrettably the decision was made to cancel the match.”

Leinster released a statement in which they clarified that there had been no “new” positive Covid tests. The Irish province is incandescent for a number of reasons. They argued that they kept EPCR fully informed of their circumstances at every turn and at no point. Nothing changed between Wednesday when EPCR were positive about the match taking place and Thursday when they decided to pull the plug.

The financial costs in rescheduling a charter flight from Thursday to Friday highlights that Leinster believed that had been cleared to play the game in France. The province will also seek explanations as to how Wasps were permitted to fulfil their opening fixture against Munster after reporting positive Covid tests less than 12 hours prior to the game.

They will ask why EPCR postponed, not cancelled, matches between English and French clubs due to take place in both the Champions and Challenge Cups this weekend, citing exceptional circumstances and confirming an intention to re-fix those games less than a fortnight after they had confirmed that there was no room to re-schedule.

Leinster’s objective with the formal appeal is to have the game against Montpellier re-fixed, thereby accorded the same latitude that EPCR wish to show the English and French clubs whose matches were cancelled this weekend. The Scarlets and Ospreys may also adopt a similar course of action.

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