Confusion reigns over this weekend’s Heineken Champions Cup fixtures involving English clubs traveling to France with Sale and Bath giving conflicting perspectives on their fixtures.
Sharks rugby manager Alex Sanderson insists Sunday’s trip to Clermont may continue due to a change in French travel restrictions, but his Bath counterpart Stuart Hooper is still seeking clarification from from the organizers of the EPCR tournament.
The sticking point for Gallagher Premiership teams visiting France in the third round of European competition, a group which also includes Newcastle, is the existing requirement to quarantine on arrival for 48 hours.
If a staff member tests positive for the coronavirus, they will need to stay in isolation for 10 days before returning home.
The EPCR is looking to relax the rules and, while optimistic about getting a positive result, on Wednesday night it was unable to provide a definitive update as the chaotic build-up of the weekend intensified.
“Everything is positive – we are going. That’s what I’ve been told, ”Sanderson said Wednesday afternoon as the group stage continues to be mired in chaos.
“The message this morning is that we are going and from what I understand, we don’t have to stay for the 48 hours or the PCR test, which was the concern because people would have probably been trap in France.
“The last hurdle to overcome is the Schengen visas which we are still waiting for, but we are very confident that they will pass and that the game will play out.
“I have not spoken directly to the EPCR but looking at all the communication we have had so far, we are very positive. We chartered a plane and settled the hotel.
Hooper said Bath would only fulfill their clash with La Rochelle on Saturday if travel restrictions are relaxed and not sure when they can leave for the Marcel Deflandre stadium and what Covid-19 security procedures they will face.
He won’t risk players or staff being left behind, given the experiences Cardiff, Munster and the Scarlets had when they were stranded in South Africa when the Omicron variant first appeared in November. .
“For us, it’s more about testing in the country. If you have to self-isolate for 48 hours, it’s because you have to test it or stay in isolation for 10 days, ”Hooper said.
“This is absolutely not a condition that we would travel to France for, because you can get stuck there.
“It’s really important not to look too far, but at the same time you also need to understand what that would mean for the players who might get stuck in France. We don’t yet know what that would look like.
“If we are all traveling together and someone is positive, are we all close contacts? So are we all in a hotel with 40 people together for 10 days? This is an obstacle that must absolutely be overcome very quickly.
“You saw how much of a problem this has been for other teams in other competitions. That’s a big part of the discussions with the EPCR. We still don’t have absolute clarity on what to do. We hope to hear what is required very soon. I know the EPCR is working hard on it.
Bath wants to fly out on Friday and return on Saturday night, but that plan is only possible if the National Rugby League, which speaks to the French government on behalf of the EPCR, is successful in its negotiations.
“It is hoped that the matches of rounds 3 and 4 will be played under more favorable conditions and the EPCR expects an update on the situation shortly,” said an EPCR statement.
Toulouse, Racing 92 and Stade Français all travel to take on the British opposition this weekend, but the ability of French clubs to quarantine themselves in their own country removes a complication facing British teams going into the opposite direction.