European Rugby chiefs have given Munster’s Champions Cup against Castres the green light as matches between French and English teams have been postponed.
Tournament officials met this morning to discuss the ever-evolving situation created by the Covid-19 Omicron variant and reviewed the latest information and travel guidance from government health authorities.
As a consequence of new travel measures between the UK and France which are being introduced by the French Government, games between teams from both sides of the channel have now been called off this weekend.
However, as no such travel ban exists currently between France and Ireland, the Saturday night match between Munster and Castres will go ahead as scheduled.
An EPCR Board statement said “It has been decided that due to current exceptional circumstances, Round 2 matches in the Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup between French and UK clubs scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday) and Sunday are postponed. This is a consequence of new travel measures between the UK and France which are being introduced by the French Government. The Board received briefings from the three professional leagues which included updated information from the respective governments, however, there were insufficient assurances that these matches would not be at risk. Therefore, the intention is to reschedule the following Round 2 fixtures to a later date Bath Rugby v Stade Rochelais; Sale Sharks v ASM Clermont Auvergne; Scarlets v Union Bordeaux-Bègles; Stade Toulousain v Wasps Stade Francais Paris v Bristol Bears.”
Two Challenge Cup games are also impacted: Worcester Warriors v Biarritz Olympique, London Irish v CA Brive
Meanwhile Munster will welcome back some forward experience for Saturday night’s Heineken Champions Cup clash at Thomond Park after Johann van Graan named a side showing five changes from last Sunday’s bonus-point victory at Wasps.
Only one change appears to be enforced with Ben Healy starting at fly-half in place of the injured Joey Carbery, who fractured an elbow in Coventry five days ago. The other changes are all in the pack as Munster call on players newly available after periods of self-isolation following the province’s ill-fated trip to South Africa.
Hooker Niall Scannell, tighthead prop John Ryan, lock Jean Kleyn and No.8 Jack O’Donoghue all start having missed last weekend’s trip to England and all four replace players who were making their debuts against Wasps, helping their side to a 34-15 win against the odds under the stewardship of academy manager Ian Costello.
There is a second cap for 19-year-old academy full-back Patrick Campbell, who keeps his place in the starting XV after a try-scoring debut last time out but Scannell replaces academy hooker Scott Buckley, man of the match and a try scorer in Coventry, Ryan comes in for James French, Eoin O’Connor makes way for Kleyn while Daniel Okeke steps aside for the return of O’Donoghue.
It is a completely different bench for Munster, though one that features