The final two rounds of the Champions Cup pool stage have been postponed following a decision by the French government banning international travel for sport.
With French sides such as Toulouse, Toulon and Clermont - who were due to face Munster at Thomond Park this weekend - unable to compete, the EPCR has confirmed that a decision has been taken to shelve the final two rounds of matches until a later date.
The competition organisers said the tournament is 'temporarily suspended', with comments earlier in the day from Lyon president, and EPCR board member, Yann Robert, outlining two possible scenarios for finishing the Champions Cup.
The first would see the final rounds of the pool stages take place in the weekends scheduled for the two-legged quarter-finals in April, with the top four teams going straight into a semi-final.
Robert, however, says the second solution is the one favoured by the French clubs and would see the top 16 sides enter into a straight knockout over the four available weekends.
Either scenario would afford Leinster and Munster a chance to win the tournament, but Connacht and Ulster will miss out either way as they are ranked ninth and 10th in Pool B.
In a statement confirming the postponement, the EPCR said:
"Following a directive from the French authorities that the participation of TOP 14 clubs in the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup at the current time constitutes too great a public health risk, EPCR has no choice but to announce today (Monday, 11 January) that the 2020/21 tournaments are temporarily suspended.
"EPCR and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby took part in a meeting by audio conference last week with representatives of the French ministries of the Interior, Health and Sport, as well as of the President’s office.
"Notable updates to EPCR’s COVID-19 protocols were presented to the French authorities, including the addition of PCR tests no earlier than three days before matches in the tournaments, conforming to French government guidelines and supplementing the existing, meticulous contact tracing measures put in place with a view to limiting the risk of transmission.
"Against the backdrop of the recent detection of a new strain of coronavirus, the French government has directed that French clubs postpone their participation in EPCR’s tournaments for the month of January, both for matches scheduled in France and for those due to be played in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
"On the basis of this directive, EPCR had no choice but to temporarily suspend the pool stage of the Heineken Champions Cup and the preliminary stage of the Challenge Cup. While respecting all further directives by governments and local authorities, and prioritising the health and welfare of players and club staff, EPCR, in conjunction with its shareholder leagues and unions, remains committed to trying to find a solution which will enable it to resume and complete the tournaments as soon as practicable. EPCR will be making no further comment at the present time."