Plans for rugby’s season-ending cross-border competitions have been thrown into jeopardy following another round of Covid-19 travel restrictions that have placed the viability of the Women’s Six Nations, PRO14 Rainbow Cup, and Champions Cup in doubt.
Ireland’s decision to add France, among other countries, to its list of nations requiring mandatory quarantine periods on entry has put next Saturday’s Women’s Test between the Six Nations rivals into question while reports in South Africa’s media suggest hopes of their four “Super” provinces travelling north for the final rounds of the Rainbow Cup have been dashed.
One of the four franchises’ CEO has also suggested that the five-nation competition has been cancelled owing to fears in England of an increased risk of transmission of the South African variant of Covid virus.
Rainbow Cup organisers the PRO14 had announced a three-week series of local derbies for the competing teams in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy, and South Africa starting on April 23 before scheduling cross-border fixtures, still to be confirmed, for later rounds in May and June.
For that, the Sharks, Stormers, Bulls, and Lions would have travelled to bases in England from where they would travel for games but Sharks CEO Eduard Coetzee was on Sunday reported in South African media as saying: “We have little information at this stage, but it seems to be the case that the Rainbow Cup will be cancelled.”
Ireland’s women, who kicked off their delayed and revised Six Nations campaign on Saturday with a 45-0 win over Wales in Cardiff, are scheduled to play France at Energia Park in Donnybrook this Saturday, by which time travel from France and 15 other countries will require a 10-day quarantine period on arrival.
While Irish teams including Ireland Women have been afforded elite athlete status by the Government to train and play, their players and incoming teams are currently not exempt from quarantine if travelling from countries on the list.
South Africa was already on the Irish list with Toulouse’s Springbok lock Rynhardt Elstadt unable to face Munster last weekend as he had been in his home country within 14 days of the team’s intended arrival for the game in Limerick and would have been subject to the mandatory quarantine.
There will also be concerns over the Champions Cup semi-finals with Leinster set to face one of three French teams on the weekend of April 30-May 1, the draw for which was set to take place on Sunday evening with the Irish province in the hat alongside La Rochelle, Bordeaux-Begles, and the winners of today’s final quarter-final between Clermont and Toulouse.