French rugby season opener postponed after Stade Francais Covid-19 cases

Paris (AFP)

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This weekend's opening match of French rugby's Top 14 season featuring Stade Francais against Bordeaux-Begles has been postponed due to coronavirus, the league announced on Monday.

Paris-based hosts Stade Francais recorded positive cases of the virus last month and had asked the league (LNR) to delay the fixture due to a lack of healthy front-rowers.

"Players' health is the absolute priority for the professional rugby bodies" the LNR said.

"Stade Francais were unable to name the required number of front-row players for this weekend in conditions to guarantee the safety of players," it added.

In August, the Parisians, who had the competition's biggest financial budget last term thanks to billionaire owner Hans-Peter Wild, said they had cases of Covid-19 upon their return from a camp in Nice.

Later last month, the Stade Jean-Bouin side said some squad members had suffered lung damage after contracting the virus.

"It's a perfectly reasonable decision in view of the health of a number of our players," general manager Thomas Lombard told the outfit's website.

"These players had to rest for more than three weeks, which considering the closeness to the match against Bordeaux-Begles, made their participation hypopthetical and mostly risky," he added.

The league said they will investigate the club's management of their pre-season.

The fixture is set to be played on the weekend of September 26-27, which has been reserved for the European Challenge Cup semi-finals, if the visitors lose their last-eight tie with Edinburgh a week earlier.

Pau's trip to Handre Pollard's Montpellier will now be the only game scheduled in the Top 14 on Friday.