EDINBURGH appear set to for a tilt at glory in either the Champions Cup or the second-tier Challenge Cup, while Glasgow Warriors will be stuck at home kicking their heels, when European club rugby finally emerges from its Covid induced hibernation.
Premiership Rugby’s chief executive Darren Childs has told the BBC that the final two rounds of European pool matches, which were postponed earlier this week due to French concerns about the spread of Covid, will not be rearranged. Instead, the Champions and Challenge Cups will go straight to knockout formats with the make-up based on pool rankings after the first two rounds.
“The decision was made by the EPCR executive,” said Childs. “The reason we can’t reschedule those [postponed games] is that there are no available weekends. Our season is now full right until our final.
“It was decided very quickly by all three leagues [Premiership, Top 14 and Pro14] that we would complete the [European] tournaments in the last four weekends [in April and May].”
The plan at the start of the campaign was for the top four teams in each Champions Cup pool to progress to the quarter-finals of that competition, while the teams ranked fifth to eighth were to drop into the last 16 of the Challenge Cup. However, it is understood that discussions have taken place about the possibility of the top eight teams in each Champions Cup pool progressing to a 16-team knock-out stage (with the extra round of matches being accommodated by the quarter-finals being played over one leg instead of two).
The second of these options would suit Edinburgh, who are currently sixth in Pool A of the Champions Cup.
Meanwhile, Glasgow lost their first Champions Cup pool match 42-0 away to Exeter, and a Covid exposure in that game forced the club to forfeit their second match at home to Lyon, leaving them stranded at the bottom of Pool B. So their European season appears to be over.
The remaining matches will be played on the two weekends reserved for European games in April, and another weekend set aside in early May, before the finals weekend scheduled for the 22nd May in Marseille.