Thursday, May 19

English clubs remain unsure about the viability of matches in France | Champions League

English clubs set to play in France this weekend have given mixed messages about the fulfillment of their matches, but European rugby chiefs were cautiously optimistic on Wednesday night that matches would go according to plan.

Newcastle, Sale and Bath will play in France, but have expressed grave concern over what they see as prohibitive travel restrictions. They would have to isolate themselves for 48 hours upon arrival and test negative before coming out of quarantine, increasing the possibility of players or staff being stranded for 10 days.

The organizers of the Champions and Challenge Cups have been working with the Ligue Nationale de Rugby in hopes of obtaining confirmation that French government rules will be relaxed in time for all three matches to take place.

Although no confirmation had come, Sale expressed confidence that his match at Clermont would take place on Sunday, but Bath insisted that he would not travel to La Rochelle on Saturday without the necessary guarantees. Newcastle are planning Friday’s game in Biarritz to take place and will travel that morning unless instructed otherwise.

Despite the confusion, Sale’s confidence matches that of the European Professional Club Rugby. Sale is due to travel on Saturday, he will return on Sunday and his rugby director Alex Sanderson showed a positive tone, revealing that his South African players will also receive the necessary visas to enter France.

“We’re leaving, that’s what I’ve been told,” Sanderson said. “I understand that we don’t have to stay for the 48 hours or the PCR test, which was the risk because people would probably be trapped in France. We may still need the seal of a queen, but everything indicates that it is happening. “

Bath rugby director Stuart Hooper was more circumspect, insisting that if the 48-hour isolation period is maintained, his team will stay, mindful of how Munster, the Scarlets and the Cardiff Blues were recently trapped in South Africa.

“It’s more about testing in the country. If you have to isolate yourself for 48 hours it is because you have to do a test or stay isolated for 10 days, “he said. “That is absolutely not a condition for which we would travel to France, as you can get stuck there. We still do not have absolute clarity of what we have to do. We hope to hear from you very soon about what is required. I know EPCR is working hard on it. “

Ultimately, the key question appears to be when, rather than whether, the French government announces a relaxation of its travel restrictions with the UK. English clubs have already been granted an exemption to travel to France, as they are considered to be “in search of economic activity” and it has been widely reported that the restrictions will be relaxed. However, it is unclear if the necessary changes will take effect in time for this weekend’s matches.

Meanwhile, Manu Tuilagi is expected to seek release from England’s Six Nations pre-training camp in Brighton to demonstrate his fitness with Sale six days before the competition begins.

Eddie Jones is set to name his team to the Six Nations next Tuesday and England will meet on January 24 on the South Coast. But Tuilagi, who has not played since suffering a hamstring injury against South Africa in November, wants to prove his fitness against his former club Leicester later that week.

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“I need to talk to Eddie about this,” Sanderson said. “Eddie first has to free him to play that game and I know [Manu] you don’t want to go in without playing that game. I spoke to him in the hall today and he said we’ll see how I feel after that game. Eddie is another person who said, look, let’s handle it mentally and physically. He has to be right, to feel that he is right and that will be the discussion after that Leicester game. “

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