English Premiership rugby clubs to take two-week break after Euro halt

London (AFP) –


England's Premiership ruby union clubs will take a two-week, mid-season break organisers said after it was announced earlier Monday that both the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup tournaments were being suspended because of coronavirus concerns raised by French authorities.

There had been speculation the Premiership might bring forward fixtures in England's top-flight to fill the gap caused by the suspension of the upcoming two rounds of European pool fixtures in January.

But a statement issued by Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs said: "The welfare of everyone involved in Premiership Rugby is crucial to us and this break in the season gives us the chance to hand some much-needed rest to our hard-working players, management, staff and match officials.

"The Gallagher Premiership Rugby season will return - as scheduled -- on Friday 29 January when Bristol Bears host Bath Rugby live on BT Sport."

French authorities said the Covid-19 pandemic meant it was "too great a public health risk" for French teams to play, with the French government directed the country's rugby clubs not to take part in the European competitions until "February at least".

Monday's statement by European Professional Club Rugby, the organisers of the European tournaments, could also have an impact on the forthcoming Six Nations Championship, due to start on February 6.

Britain is battling a new variant of Covid-19 that has led to a sharp rise in infections and hospitalisations.

France are scheduled to begin the 2021 Six Nations away to Italy on February 6 before facing Ireland in Dublin the following week, with their fixture against England at London's Twickenham ground set for March 13.