MOOD – Already renamed the Covid Cup by the most insolent, the Champions Cup saw, from the second day, its results biased by the epidemic and, above all, the negligence of its organizers.
Will the European Cup come to an end? Nothing is less sure. Day 2 saw the pandemic catch up with the competition. Initially, the recklessness, even the unconsciousness, of the Chiefs of Exeter. Yes, these same European champions who, two months ago, had imposed draconian conditions on Toulouse before their semi-final, preventing them from leaving their hotel and coming to discover the field the day before the match, before inflicting them a temperature measurement on arrival at the stadium and confined them in a tent outside the enclosure so that Kolbe and his partners, treated as plague victims, do not contaminate them.
At the start, therefore, some Exeter players and staff declared positive … after their match on the first day of the Champions Cup against the Glasgow Warriors. As a result, the EPCR decides that neither Exeter nor Glasgow – 20 players considered as contact cases placed in quarantine – can line up on the second day. Matches lost on the green carpet, 28-0, in favor of Stade Toulouain and LOU.
Then there is Bath, sanctioned in the same way because twelve of their players had been in contact with a player who tested positive for the Llanelli Scarlets. So no trip to La Rochelle and a further enhanced victory, the third, for the benefit of a French club. Is it to restore balance? Still, the governing body, if it sanctioned Bath, did not make the same decision for the Scarlets. Despite, therefore, a positive player, others put in isolation and a decimated workforce for the reception of Toulon. Toulonnais who, legitimately, refused, an hour and a half before the kick-off to play this meeting after learning that the Welsh had not carried out new covid tests since Monday (that is to say 5 days before the meeting) and that they had been declared healthy on the sole basis of the “tracing”.
»READ ALSO – Toulon, sanctioned with a defeat on the green carpet, “is studying all possibilities of appeal” against the EPCR
The blood of the EPCR then made only one turn: a match lost for… Rugby Club Toulonnais and victory 28-0 for the Scarlets. An iniquitous decision that Bernard Lemaitre, the president of the Var club, has rightly decided not to let go. “The EPCR allowed me to protect those who were unwilling to take any risks and to call for volunteers. I was only fooling. What to say to the guys? “Some refuse to be infected, are there volunteers?” It’s nonsense, it’s absurd, it’s unprofessional! ” Wrath for probable action. “The RCT considers that the position taken by the EPCR is irregular and is studying all possibilities of appeal.”
The Glasgow franchise has already made up its mind. Its leaders will file a complaint against the EPCR and Exeter for non-compliance with health protocols. They blame the English club for the absence of masks and the failure to respect social distancing in the stand bringing together the staff, substitutes and fixed-price players attending this meeting. Some Scots have even told in the national press that, when they pointed out this irresponsible behavior to the English, they were content to laugh about it, to send them to be seen even to believe them. Last I heard, Bath is said to be inclined to do the same and file a complaint against the EPCR.
Apart from these legal considerations, the question of sports fairness arises in full. The new competition format will qualify for the quarter-finals the first four of each of the two pools of twelve teams. At the end of a sprint of only four days; Suffice to say that a 28-0 defeat almost weighs down all chances of qualifying. And how to explain, for example to Clermont who played and lost, that, at the same time, Toulouse did not play but won. Ubuesque. The governing body, taking care not to accuse anyone (“the EPCR wishes to stress that fault was not considered as a factor during the deliberations, and that the decisions of the commission were taken in the opting to facilitate the completion of this season ”) thought to guard against a backlash. In vain. It is not enough to say “It is not your fault but we are still going to penalize you” to put down any rebellion.
»READ ALSO – Stade Français refuse to play against Cardiff and lose on green carpet
These decisions, without logic, of the EPCR, have already opened the doors to all variations. Thus, in the Challenge Cup, the Stade Français, which had decided to ignore this competition (inaugural defeat at home of a Parisian team “ ter ” against the Italians of Benetton Treviso), squarely made the choice of ‘argue the risks of contamination not to go to Cardiff. While the Welsh team presented no case. Making the assumed, deliberate choice of a defeat on the green carpet rather than a trip without the slightest prospect of victory.
In short, it’s the big nonsense. But the rest looks even more ubiquitous. France should soon announce that it is stopping trains and flights to the United Kingdom, where the virus has mutated to become even more contagious. London and the south-east of England, but also Wales, have reconfigured themselves. How can we imagine, at the end of January, that the situation will be resolved, that there may be teams moving from the United Kingdom to France and vice versa? We are moving more surely towards a Champions Cup which will not come to an end. The best outcome for this Covid Cup with already biased results.