Toulouse forfeit Champions Cup tie with Cardiff and send Connacht through to last-16

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Toulouse forfeit Champions Cup tie with Cardiff and send Connacht through to last-16
© James Crombie INPHO Connacht coach Andy Friend.

CONNACHT HAVE BEEN assured of safe passage to the knockout stages of this season’s Champions Cup following organisers’ decision to hand Cardiff a walkover victory against champions Toulouse. 

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Connacht began the week believing they would need at least a losing bonus point against Stade to make the knockouts for the first time in their history, but a swell of covid cases in the Toulouse squad led to the cancellation of their game and the knock-on effect that Andy Friend’s squad can now not be caught in the standings. 

“Following the cancellation of Toulouse/Cardiff, our place in the Round of 16 is now confirmed,” said Connacht on their social media channels. 

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“For the first time ever, we reach the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup! A great achievement for our players & management, and we’re not done yet.”

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Toulouse/Cardiff today became the ninth game in this season’s competition where a side has been given a victory or a match declared a draw due to Covid-19 issues.

With the Welsh region being handed the win the record five-time champions are seventh in Pool B and need results to go in their favour if they are to reach the last 16.

“Following a meeting of an independent Match Risk Assessment Committee, EPCR has been advised that the Champions Cup, Round 4 fixture between Stade Toulousain and Cardiff Rugby scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday, 22 January) at Stade Ernest-Wallon cannot go ahead,” European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) said.

“Cardiff Rugby have therefore been awarded the match in Pool A on a 28-0, five match points basis, in accordance with the Tournament Rules,” it added.

Toulouse have refused to disclose the names of those who have contracted the illness but world player of the year Antoine Dupont as well as France half-back partner Romain Ntamack were omitted from the team announced for the game with Cardiff.

Later, the French league (LNR), who run the Top 14 and ProD2, claimed EPCR had broken its own Covid-19 rules in cancelling the game.

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According to the LNR, EPCR regulations state clubs adopt guidelines from their domestic leagues and the French professional rugby body said Toulouse had enough fit squad members to play the game.

“The LNR denounces a scandalous and totally unfounded decision,” the LNR said.

“EPCR’s decision is in violation of its own rules. It is incomprehensible and brings a serious prejudice on the club and the fairness of the competition,” it added.

With reporting from © AFP 2022

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