The outcome of a meeting over French clubs’ participation in this season’s European competitions is due to be announced on Saturday – with a potential knock-on effect on the Six Nations.
Concerns over the new strain of coronavirus prompted the Ministries of Interior, Health and Sport to hold talks with EPCR, who run the Heineken Champions and Challenge Cups, and LNR, the representative body for the Top 14.
If France’s clubs are told by Paris that they are unable to compete in the remaining two rounds of group-stage fixtures, the competitions could be suspended.
Other possible outcomes are for a number of matches to be cancelled – a course of action that would damage the credibility of the tournaments – or for the French authorities to accept the enhanced Covid measures brought in by EPCR this week as sufficient.
One of the new measures is to undertake testing three days out from a match, the timing adopted by the Top 14, while in England testing is completed on Mondays or Tuesdays.
“EPCR and the LNR participated in a meeting on Thursday afternoon with members of the French government,” an EPCR statement read.
“The objective was to present the revised COVID-19 protocols for rounds three and four of the 2020-2021 Heineken Champions Cup and European Rugby Challenge Cup.
“Notable updates to the protocols include the addition of matchday minus-three testing, conforming to the new directives of the French government.
“These changes supplement the existing, meticulous contact tracing with all measures put in place with a view to limiting the risk of transmission and allowing the tournaments to continue in the context of the strong evolution of a new variant of Coronavirus.
“EPCR expects to receive a decision from the authorities by the end of Saturday.”
If the French government refuses to allow the Top 14 clubs to compete this month – Bayonne and Toulon have already threatened withdrawal – it could have implications for the Six Nations.
France play their opening two games away next month and are also due to face England at Twickenham on March 13.