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Coronavirus: Ulster sweat over Champions Cup quarter-final in Toulouse as French clubs set to decide Top 14 measures


Ulster are due to take on Toulouse on April 5.

Ulster are due to take on Toulouse on April 5.

�INPHO/Presseye/Pascal Pavani

Ulster are due to take on Toulouse on April 5.

Fears are growing that Ulster's Champions Cup quarter-final with Toulouse could be the latest sporting event to fall foul of measures to contain the coronavirus.

The province are due to travel to the four-time European champions on April 5 but, after the decision was taken yesterday to postpone Ireland's Six Nations visit to Paris slated for this weekend, the disruption to the country's sporting calendar looks set to worsen.

Reports in France this morning suggest that a decision on upcoming domestic games could be taken as early as this evening with the suspension of the Top 14 for up to two months one mooted measure.

Mirroring top flight soccer by playing games behind closed doors to comply with the French government's policy of limiting gatherings in excess of 1,000 people seems a more likely outcome but L'Equipe add that a number of clubs are reluctant to see such an eventuality come to pass given the economic impact of lost ticket sales.

Indeed it is speculated that Toulouse would be the worst impacted club in the league and could stand to lose up to 4 million euros having planned to move the last eight tie from their Stade Ernest Wallon home to the larger capacity Le Stadium.

It is understood that clubs are already in regular dialogue with competition organisers over the potential of further disruption but have had no indication yet that the European Cup will be lost for the year despite the tight time frame to reschedule any postponed games in a competition due to conclude in Marseilles on May 23.

EPCR last night released a statement saying they are "fully supportive of any preventative measures" adopted for the benefit of the overall public health.

"It is currently envisaged that the Heineken Champions Cup and European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final matches will go ahead as scheduled on the weekend of 3/4/5 April," it said.

"EPCR intends to complete all eight fixtures and will continue to monitor developments while liaising with the relevant league and union bodies, as well as governments and local authorities.

"EPCR is fully supportive of any preventative measures that might be required in the interests of overall public health in relation to Covid-19 and will respect instructions provided by authorities."

Ulster have already had one game postponed due to the outbreak of the virus - their PRO14 trip to Benetton originally intended to be played on February 29 - with the backlog of fixtures created by the ban on all sports in Italy until at least April 3 making it increasingly likely that fixture is deemed a 0-0 draw.

Belfast Telegraph