Rugby Union

Pat Lam urges Premiership to fill Euro void and save rugby from winter shutdown

Pat Lam has called on the Premiership to fill the void expected to be left by the suspension of European competition and save rugby from shutting down.

The next two weekends were due to see both the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup complete their pool stages.

But those are in doubt after the French Government recommended to its clubs that cross-border elite sport should be halted in a desperate attempt to stem the spread of Covid.

Lam, boss of table-topping Bristol, is in no doubt that England’s top flight must step into the breach to keep rugby show on the road.

“This is a massive opportunity for the Premiership as a competition to bring everything forward instead of doing nothing,” said Bears’ director of rugby.

Lam says it is a win-win for rugby as not only would the sport continue but it would be actually enhanced.

England stars are free to play for their clubs on the next two weekends but NOT when the league’s next two rounds are currently scheduled.

“It is great for the competition that we would have fully-loaded teams,” he said. “We are all prepared to play, we are all good to go.

“So it is a massive opportunity for the Premiership to say ‘let’s go, let’s bring everything forward and let’s get going’, because rugby is great at the moment.

Lam added: “What we have learned from last season is that playing midweek games takes a massive toll on players – and we don’t want to go down there again.

“If we bring games forward it is going to open up those weeks. So we look after health and safety and also the boys are training.”

Lam’s stance was backed by Exeter boss Rob Baxter who urged the Premiership to move “positively and quickly” and bring games forward.

Rugby’s wider concern is that the Macron Government’s stance will impact on the Six Nations Championship, due to kick off on February 6.

European clubs’ boss Simon Halliday warned on Friday that postponing his competitions would have “broader implications for the game this season”.

Pushed on his response he said it would force the sport to have a “reset” which could effect the scheduling of both Six Nations and Lions tour.

For now Six Nations chiefs are fervently hoping that European governments can agree a “coordinated approach” to enable their tournament to go ahead safely.

There is a little wriggle room as France do not host a match in Paris until Feb 28 and are not in the UK until March 13, when they are slated to face England at Twickenham.

French Federation Bernard Laporte moved to allay fears, saying: "There is no need to be alarmed for the Six Nations. The tournament will be played, with an adapted health protocol.”

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