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Ulster's Champions Cup run may be at an end as French decision has huge ramifications



Ulster coach Dan McFarland

Ulster coach Dan McFarland

Ulster coach Dan McFarland

Ulster's Champions Cup quarter-final clash with Toulouse looks less likely than ever to eventually take place after French clubs abandoned the 2019-20 campaign yesterday.

Dan McFarland's men had been due to travel to old foes Toulouse in the first weekend of April before the Covid-19 pandemic struck and forced the games to be postponed.

Competition organisers EPCR have already stressed their determination to see this year's tournament completed but with Clermont and Racing also set to go head-to-head in the last-eight, and an announcement from French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe that no sport would take place in the country until September at the earliest, no such ambitions seem feasible.

For their part, French clubs yesterday confirmed that, in their minds, the season is over with the Top 14 the latest sporting casualty of the global crisis.

The LNR confirmed that when play can resume, they will do so with the beginning of the 2020-21 campaign, although they have yet to confirm whether league leaders Bordeaux-Begles, eight points ahead of their nearest challenger, will be crowned champions or if there will still be relegation and promotion.

At this point, Ulster have not played for more than two months - since beating Cheetahs on February 22 - and there is seemingly no chance of them returning in the near future.

The PRO14 has not yet taken any decision akin to the one from France yesterday but, given the cross-border nature of the competition, it would seem most susceptible to being forced into a later resumption of action - although an Irish inter-pro series this summer has been suggested as one possible way of restarting things.

Belfast Telegraph