British rugby teams can travel to France under new ‘essential work’ rules

The organisers of the European Champions Cup said on Friday games in this season's pool stages later this month will take place as normal after receiving an exemption on the UK travel rules from the French government.

British rugby teams can travel to France under new 'essential work' rules
French team Toulouse are the current European champions. Photo: Adam Denis/AFP

Last month, European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) were forced to postpone five fixtures between the French Top 14 teams and British sides due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Since December 18th, individuals have needed a compelling reason to go between the countries, with the only dispensation being for French and European travellers returning to France and British passengers heading in the other direction.

However on Thursday evening the French government announced a slight relaxation of the rules, saying that essential work trips can now take place.

Most other types of travel remain banned, however, including family visits, tourism and visits from second-home owners.

READ ALSO When will France fully lift UK travel restrictions?

“EPCR is pleased to clarify that pool stage matches in Rounds 3 and 4 of the Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup are set to go ahead as scheduled,”  body said.

“Following dialogue with the leagues and unions, EPCR has been informed that exemptions for what is termed the “pursuit of an economic activity” which have been put in place by the French government will apply to clubs and match officials who are travelling between France and the UK.

“Further information will also be sought from the French authorities regarding possible new conditions which may be applicable to travel between France and the UK,” it added.

The next round of matches start on January 14th when champions Toulouse travel to play English side Wasps and Bath travel to La Rochelle. 

Round four takes place the following weekend with Top 14 leaders Bordeaux-Begles heading to unbeaten Premiership club Leicester Tigers and Cardiff players travelling to Toulouse.

According to France’s sports minister, a meeting between the country’s interministerial crisis centre will be held on Monday, when they will discuss sporting events.

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Spain thrown out of 2023 Rugby World Cup

Spain have been thrown out of the 2023 Rugby World Cup for fielding an ineligible South African-born player during the qualifying stages and will be replaced by Romania, World Rugby announced on Thursday.

Spain thrown out of 2023 Rugby World Cup

“Subject to Spain’s right of appeal, the 10-point deduction applied to the Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification table means that Romania will qualify as Europe 2 into Pool B replacing Spain,” read the statement.

Portugal — who Spain beat to seal their place in the global showpiece in France next year — replace Romania in the Final Qualification Tournament taking place in November 2022.

“Spain has a right of appeal within 14 days of the date of the full written decision of the committee,” read the statement.

According to Spanish media in March, the player under investigation was South African-born prop Gavin van den Berg, who has been playing in Spain since 2018.

He played twice against the Netherlands, in 2020 and 2021, in qualifiers, but he may not seemingly have served the three years of residency needed to become eligible under World Rugby rules.

Spain, Romania and Belgium were all sanctioned in 2018 for having fielded ineligible players, opening the way for Russia to qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.