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Champions Cup

Saracens Handed Another Huge Set-Back

Saracens have had a tough few days and things have got worse yet again as one of their star youngsters has been ruled out for the remainder of the season

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Saracens’ terrible week has just gone from bad to worse with the confirmation that prop Ralph Adams-Hale has been ruled out for the rest of the season through injury.

The 22-year-old picked up an ankle injury on Saturday during Sarries first win over Gloucester at Kingsholm in four years and was stretchered off the pitch. 

It was confirmed that he underwent surgery on Sunday and will go under the knife once more in the coming days to fix the injury, which will now leave him sidelined for the remainder of the season. 

Adams-Hale had started the season brightly with two starts and two sub appearances in the team’s first four games to follow on from his Premiership final appearance last season, but this is a cruel blow for him individually as he joins star full-back Liam Williams on the injury list.

Meanwhile, it is yet another set-back for the club as a whole, who were hit with a £5.3 million fine as well as a 35-point deduction following breach of salary cap regulations. They are fighting the decision, but if they fail in their appeal they will sink to the bottom of the Premiership table. 

Currently on 13 points they would drop to -22, a whopping 26-points off current basement side Leicester who have only picked up four points from their first four games. 

Head coach Mark McCall has confirmed that if it comes to it Saracens will sacrifice their Champions Cup crown to focus on avoiding relegation from the English top tier. 

“We have got a plan for the worst-case scenario which will affect our strategy around the Champions Cup. Our job at the moment if the points deduction remains and the appeal is not successful is to try to stay up and that is what we will try and do,” he said last week. 

Meanwhile, as well as those blows the reigning English and European champions could face punishment from the European body following their absence from last week’s Champions Cup launch day, with another fine most likely on the way. 

Saracens will hope things will get better soon with the return of some key international stars, and will look to kick-start their European campaign on a high when they take on French giants Racing 92 this weekend.

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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Champions Cup

Exeter Ace Signs Contract Extension

Following the news that England star Harry Williams has agreed a new deal with Exeter Chiefs another star player has committed his future to the Premiership giants

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

England prop Ben Moon has put pen to paper on a new deal with Premiership side the Exeter Chiefs.

The eight-cap England international has agreed a new “long-term” deal that will see him remain at Sandy Park for the foreseeable future and he is delighted to be staying at his hometown club. 

“Obviously, I’m delighted. To be at one club your whole career is pretty rare these days. The fact it’s my hometown club as well, it’s brilliant, and I feel very privileged to be part of the Chiefs. Luckily for me, I’ve been part of a brilliant journey – one which I know has plenty of miles still to go. What we have achieved as a club, as a team, and as individuals, it’s taken a huge amount of work and effort, but everyone has seen the result,” he said to the club’s website. 

Moon has been with the Chiefs since his time in the academy and has managed to pick up an incredible 259 appearances for the club, notching 11 tries in that time. 

He has been part of the team since their time in the English second-tier and has helped them rise up the ranks, culminating in a Premiership crown in 2017. 

It is further good news for the current Premiership league leaders after fellow England international Harry Williams signed a contract extension with the club over the weekend as the Chiefs build toward the future.

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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.

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