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Challenge Cup

EPCR Confirm European Competition Postponements

European Rugby have announced that the latter stages of the Champions and Challenge Cups will be pushed back due to coronavirus

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

EPCR have released a statement to confirm that the semi-final and final stages of this year’s Champions and Challenge Cup will be postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Last week it was announced that the quarter-final stage set to take place across the first weekend of April would be suspended and now the final stages have followed suit as expected the ECPR have confirmed. 

“Following a conference call on Monday, the EPCR board can reconfirm the suspension of this season’s Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup tournaments and has furthermore decided to postpone the semi-final matches, as well as the 2020 Marseille finals, which were due to be played on the weekends of 1/2/3 May and 22/23 May respectively. In making the decision, the board is abiding by the official directives and recommendations of the relevant authorities in its territories to restrict the Covid-19 pandemic. In light of the earlier postponement of its quarter-final matches and with fixtures in Europe’s professional league competitions currently suspended due to the public health crisis, EPCR believes it necessary to provide as much clarity as possible to all stakeholders regarding the knockout stages of its tournaments. To that end, EPCR is working with the leagues and unions to restructure a conclusion to its season as part of a wider rescheduling of the remainder of the season in Europe, with all contingencies underpinned by the requirement to protect the health and welfare of players, club staff, match officials, supporters and the wider rugby community.  EPCR remains committed to completing the 2019/20 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup season, and it is planned to reschedule the quarter-final and semi-final matches, as well as the Marseille finals, in line with fixtures in the professional league competitions, subject to advice from government and local authorities,” the statement read. 

The final weekend was set to take place in Marseille and reports last weekend had claimed that officials were still hopeful of finishing there on the chosen date. 

However, even with this announcement it is hard to see when they will conclude the European season as all domestic leagues have been suspended until further notice and the clock is ticking toward the start of next season as it appears unlikely that any rugby will be played in the foreseeable future.

Challenge Cup

Champions Cup And Challenge Cup Finals Moved From Marseille

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(Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Due to the many uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been decided that the 2020 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals will not now be held in Marseille as planned and the matches will be played at a new venue or venues.

With tens of thousands of fans scheduled to travel to the south of France, the Board of EPCR and the local organising committee have agreed that insufficient safeguards are currently in place during the public health crisis to stage two high-profile matches at the 67,000-capacity Stade Vélodrome.

As a consequence, EPCR is currently working with its shareholder leagues and unions to secure an alternative venue or venues for the two finals which will be played on the weekend of 16/17/18 October, and details will be announced as soon as practicable.

As part of this adjustment to its future planning, EPCR is pleased to announce that Marseille will now host the 2021 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals at the Stade Vélodrome on the weekend of 21/22 May, and that the matches at the 62,000-capacity Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London will be rescheduled for 2022.

Tickets for this season’s finals will be valid for the 2021 weekend with no change to category or seating, and all ticket holders will be contacted by email within the next 48 hours with details of how to avail of a full refund if required.

As previously communicated, the quarter-finals of both tournaments will be played on the weekend of 18/19/20 September with the semi-finals scheduled for the weekend of 25/26/27 September. Exact dates, venues, kick-off times and TV coverage will be announced as soon as possible.

As is now customary during the pandemic, the matches will be subject to government guidelines with the health and welfare of players, club staff, match officials, supporters and the wider rugby community to the fore.

2020 EPCR dates:

  • Quarter-finals: weekend of 18/19/20 September
  • Semi-finals: weekend of 25/26/27 September
  • Heineken Champions Cup final: weekend of 16/17/18 October (venue TBC)
  • Challenge Cup final: weekend of 16/17/18 October (venue TBC)
  • Start of 2020/21 season: weekend of 11/12/13 December.

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Challenge Cup

European Player of the Year Nominees Announced

Following the conclusion of the pool stages of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup a 15-man strong shortlist for 2020’s Player of the Year has been confirmed

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(Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The EPCR European Player of the Year nominations for 2020 have been announced, with 15 players being shortlisted from the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.

Among the 15 players three teams have three nominations each with last season’s Champions Cup runners-up Leinster seeing Garry Ringrose, Jordan Larmour and Tadhg Furlong nominated. While Exeter Chiefs have Luke Cowan-Dickie, Sam Simmonds and Stuart Hogg among the shortlist. 

Racing 92 are the only other team to have three nominees being represented by Finn Russell, Virimi Vakatawa and Teddy Thomas. 

Ulster and Toulouse have picked up two nominations each with the Irish province having John Cooney and Marcell Coetzee on list, while Jerome Kaino and Romain Ntamack are included from the French giants. 

Clermont Auvergne centre George Moala is the final player on the list from the Champions Cup, while the only player from the Challenge Cup to be considered is Bordeaux-Begles Flying-Fijian Semi Radradra. 

Last season’s Champions Cup winners Saracens have had no players nominated, however, there is still a chance that players could be drafted into the nominations should they make a significant impact during the knockout-stages of the competition. 

The initial list of 15-players will be reduced to just five come the conclusion of the semi-final stage of the tournaments, with public voting and a judges vote combining to determine the results. 

Among the panel of judges this year are former Ireland stars Brian O’Driscoll and Alan Quinlan, along with the likes of Dimitri Yachvili, Bryan Habana and Erik Bonneval. 

The overall winner of the Anthony Foley Memorial Trophy will be announced following the conclusion of this year’s Champions Cup final at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille on Saturday the 23rd of May. 

Check Out the Full 15-Man Shortlist Below. 

Marcell COETZEE (Ulster Rugby)

John COONEY (Ulster Rugby)

Luke COWAN-DICKIE (Exeter Chiefs)

Tadhg FURLONG (Leinster Rugby)

Stuart HOGG (Exeter Chiefs)

Jerome KAINO (Toulouse)

Jordan LARMOUR (Leinster Rugby)

George MOALA (ASM Clermont Auvergne)

Romain NTAMACK (Toulouse)

Semi RADRADRA (Bordeaux-Bègles)

Garry RINGROSE (Leinster Rugby)

Finn RUSSELL (Racing 92)

Sam SIMMONDS (Exeter Chiefs)

Teddy THOMAS (Racing 92)

Virimi VAKATAWA (Racing 92)

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Challenge Cup

Murphy proud of Tigers ‘gritty’ performance

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(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Geordan Murphy described Leicester Tigers’ defensive display as “exemplary” after kicking off the European campaign with back-to-back wins.

A Tom Hardwick penalty with the last kick of the game gave Tigers a 14-11 win against Cardiff Blues in Wales on Saturday evening, backing up the bonus-point victory over Pau in Round 1 of the European Challenge Cup.

But it was reward for a gutsy performance from a young Tigers team which included 13 players who have come through the club’s academy system alongside internationals Ellis Genge and Tomas Lavanini.

“It was a big challenge for a young group and I got a lot of criticism for the selection, but we have got some injuries and some guys need down-time,” said head coach Murphy after a win which took Tigers top of Pool 5 ahead of the December double-header against Calvisano.

“But we had a really good pre-season so fitness is high and everyone stuck at it for each other and for the plan.

“I thought our defence was exemplary. At times they really played well and exposed us and they kicked well, but we had some really good defence. That Sam Costelow last-gasp defence was just enough to keep out that late chance, but I thought it was indicative of our performance as a whole.”

After falling behind to two penalties from Blues fly-half Jarrod Evans, Tigers created a try for No8 Jordan Coghlan but were 11-8 behind at half-time after conceding a score from wing Aled Summerhill.

It was Summerhill who was later denied by a last-ditch tackle from European debutant Costelow who just managed to do enough to force him into touch as he reached out to dot down in the corner. But fly-half Tom Hardwick added the only points of the second half, kicking the scores level on 60 minutes and then nailing the winning shot with 80 minutes already on the clock.

“It wasn’t pretty at times,” added Murphy. “But it was gritty and for a young group to show that, I was really proud of the performance.

“It’s great for this squad. I spoke to the guys on Tuesday and said people would question the selection and it was a case of circle the wagons and see what we have got in this group.

“Discipline was not as good as I would like, the breakdown could be better, but you cannot question the heart because the guys showed it in abundance.”

Tigers go to Northampton Saints on Saturday in the fifth round of the Gallagher Premiership season before resuming the Challenge Cup campaign with home-and-away ties against Italian side Calvisano.

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