Leinster hoping decision to award Montpellier victory can be revisited

Cullen says most teams would prefer if games were played rather than decided on a rules basis

While Leinster continue to prepare for their game against Ulster in the United Rugby Championship at the weekend, they are hoping the organisers of the Champions Cup might soften their stance regarding the cancelled away pool match against Montpellier.

The French club were awarded a bonus-point win and 28-0 result against the Irish side, who said they would and could travel. As coach Leo Cullen pointed out, it is not strictly an appeal against regulations Leinster signed up for but how that decision now sits in a competition which has been seriously disrupted by Covid-19 and is likely to be reconfigured.

“Well, it’s not really an appeal. It’s being left with EPCR [European Professional Club Rugby] at the moment so we’ll see how that plays out over the coming days,” said Cullen.

“EPCR are going to have to reshape the tournament anyway because there’s so many games that need to be rescheduled because obviously there was no window to reschedule at the time of cancelling of our game, whereas now the postponement route is what’s likely.”

Cullen added that most teams would prefer if the games were played rather than decided on the technical interpretation of rules when really no team is at fault for a match not being able to take place.

“They were just carrying on with instructions that they would have had from tournament organisers,” added Cullen. “Then they get stuck in a situation where they’re following public health advice from various different jurisdictions.

“So, again, you would hope that everyone would get a fair crack at playing the games because that’s what you want, you want the games to be decided on the pitch rather than decided by slight technicalities of when games get postponed or when games get cancelled. If there’ scope to play the games you’d much rather play the games surely.”

Cullen added that the Covid-hit games are like deja vu. But one of the encouraging things to emerge is that players will get game time during the Six Nations Championship, where there are "spare weekends".

“In terms of rescheduling games, we would look at that as a positive because we were definitely undercooked during that November window, leading into the Ulster game,” said Cullen.

“We had a lot of guys who had very little rugby under their belts and it’s hugely frustrating for a lot of guys in our squad, so we try to look at it as a positive moving forward.”

Connacht have an anxious wait for news of Jack Carty’s availability for Saturday’s New Year’s Day meeting with Munster at the Sportsground.

The 29-year-old outhalf, who continues to pull the strings for Connacht, is rehabbing a foot injury, and, if unavailable, it is expected Conor Fitzgerald will step into No 10 position.

"We are still looking at Jack," said Connacht coach Andy Friend. "He ran today and ran well, so let's see how he pulls up, but the form he is in at the moment, you'd love to have him involved."

Scant resources

Connacht currently have scant resources at scrumhalf, where Kieran Marmion is the only regular in full fitness. Caolin Blade, along with backrow Seán Masterson and fullback Oran McNulty, are doubtful through illness, with Academy scrumhalf Matthew Devine the only remaining fully-fit halfback.

In addition centre Peter Robb suffered a shoulder injury in training, while hooker Dylan Tierney Martin's ankle injury will keep him sidelined for four months.

There is some positive news with the possible availability of Aussie pair Mack Hansen (calf) and Ben O'Donnell (illness), and backrow Paul Boyle (shoulder/Achilles), who all returned to training this week. It is hoped Tom Daly (knee) and Gavin Thornbury (shoulder) will not be far behind as they hope to return to team training during the new few weeks.

In international news, new Covid-19 restrictions and requirements were announced by the French government on Monday, which may have a direct impact on the 2022 Six Nations.

In a further effort to fight against the spread of the virus, president Emmanuel Macron’s government has announced new rules that include mandatory full vaccinations of professional sportspeople in France, from January 15th. It is expected be confirmed “within days” whether proof of full Covid vaccination would be required for teams visiting France from abroad.

In the Champions Cup, Munster are due to face Castres away on Friday, January 14th, a day before the new rules are set to come into force, while Connacht travel to play Stade Francais on Sunday, January 23rd.

On a sad note, the death has taken place of commentator Jim Sherwin (81), who was known to Irish fans across many sports from rugby to tennis and the Olympic Games.

In a career as a rugby commentator that ran for over 30 years from 1970 to 2003, he also commentated for RTÉ for more than 20 years on the major tennis tournaments including grand slam events, Wimbledon and the French Open.

His run at the Olympic Games was equally impressive, serving as RTÉ’s main commentator for eight Olympics, from Munich in 1972 until Athens in 2004.

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