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Rugby chiefs aim to finish Ulster's Champions Cup season

 

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Coach Dan McFarland

Coach Dan McFarland

Coach Dan McFarland

European Rugby chiefs have reiterated their commitment to seeing Ulster's Champions Cup quarter-final trip to Toulouse played when it is deemed safe to do so.

At this stage, the province haven't played since beating the Cheetahs on February 22 and will require something akin to a mini pre-season once the government and sporting authorities ease restrictions that have naturally put an end to group training.

Coach Dan McFarland took Ulster's last session together almost two weeks ago and the team have been forced to disperse with many resorting to setting up gym equipment in their homes to try and stay fit.

This, coupled with league action having been suspended indefinitely and further logistical concerns such as travel, yet-to-be cancelled summer tours for national sides, and a knock-on effect into next season, had led to speculation that it may be best for player welfare to simply put an end to this season and aim to start afresh for 2020-21.

Competition organisers, though, are seemingly still set on crowning some form of champion with the PRO14 believed to be hoping for an August finish.

Yesterday's statement on European fixtures again stressed the desire to see the games played when possible and added that chiefs remain committed to ensuring that any final still takes place in Marseille.

"EPCR are working with the leagues and unions to restructure a conclusion to the season as part of a wider rescheduling of the remainder of the season in Europe, with all contingencies underpinned by the requirement to protect the health and welfare of players, club staff, match officials, supporters and the wider rugby community," it read.

The European Rugby statement added: “EPCR remain committed to completing the 2019-20 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup season, and it is planned to reschedule the quarter-final and semi-final matches, as well as the Marseille finals, in line with fixtures in the professional league competitions, subject to advice from government and local authorities.”

Ulster would have been traveling to France next Sunday for what would have been their second consecutive European quarter-final, although the last-eight ties had been postponed more than a week before yesterday saw a similar outcome for the semi-finals and final.

McFarland’s side came through a testing pool including European giants Clermont as well as English rivals Bath and Harlequins.

Supporters who had planned to travel have been told that their tickets will still be valid when a new date is confirmed, at which stage plans for refunding those who can no longer attend will be made known.

“Tickets already purchased for the Marseille finals will be valid for the new dates when announced, and from that point, fans who are unable to attend on the new dates will be entitled to a refund,” the statement added.

“EPCR would like to thank Olympique de Marseille, the staff at the Orange Vélodrome and all local and regional partners for their continuing collaboration, and an update regarding the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup will be communicated as soon as practicable.”

Belfast Telegraph