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Munster-Leinster showdown may fill fixtures gap with Champions Cup games set to be put on hold


French rugby federation president Bernard Laporte. Photo: Getty Images

French rugby federation president Bernard Laporte. Photo: Getty Images

French rugby federation president Bernard Laporte. Photo: Getty Images

European rugby chiefs are set for showdown talks with French club officials today, in order to determine whether or not the remaining two rounds of the Champions Cup pool stages can take place over the coming fortnight.

The Champions Cup is expected to be put on hold amidst growing concerns over the rapid spread of Covid-19, with the PRO14 poised to make use of the free weekends, should they open up. That could see Munster's postponed St Stephen's Day clash with Leinster taking place on the weekend of January 22/23 at Thomond Park.

The French government is set to temporarily ban its teams from competing in European competition, which would throw the Champions Cup into further disarray.

Tournament organisers EPCR will hold discussions with the LNR, who represent the French clubs, but it is anticipated that the risks involved in cross-border travel may lead to a revised format.

The French sports ministry has major reservations about its teams travelling to the UK in light of the new strain of Covid-19 which is rampant in Britain.

Should the Champions Cup be postponed, it would plunge the Six Nations into doubt, just under a month out from its proposed start date on February 6.

The Six Nations are understood to be planning to introduce more stringent Covid-19 protocols, and with France not due to travel to the UK until their round four trip to England on March 13, there remains some hope that the tournament can go ahead.

French rugby federation president Bernard Laporte dampened fears that the Six Nations could be scuppered, as he told local media: "It's a puzzle, but I think we shouldn't be alarmed about the Six Nations tournament.

"The tournament will be played with a health protocol decided by the government. Everything went well in the autumn (Nations Cup), it will be the same for the upcoming Six Nations tournament. I'm not that worried."

However, the outcome looks less positive for the Women's and U-20s Six Nations, due to their largely 'amateur' status.

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The Women's Six Nations could be postponed until April/May, while the absence of a Junior World Cup may open the door for the U-20s tournament to take place in the summer.

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