Top 14: French rugby union's top two divisions to be abandoned

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French rugby union’s top two divisions - the Top 14 and Pro D2 - will be abandoned because of the coronavirus pandemic.

BBC | Europe

Bordeaux Begles are eight points clear at the top of the French league

French rugby union’s top two divisions - the Top 14 and Pro D2 - will be abandoned because of the coronavirus pandemic, organisers Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) say.

The decision could set a precedent for the English Premiership, which is working towards restarting in July, and the Pro14.

The European Champions Cup could also be affected, with three French sides due to compete in the quarter-finals, and the final was originally scheduled to be played in Marseille on 23 May.

It was announced on Tuesday that football’s Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 would not resume after the French government banned all sporting events until September.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the 2019-20 sporting season was over as he announced plans to ease France's coronavirus lockdown on 11 May.

And an LNR statement released on Thursday read: ”After consultation with club presidents, the board will propose to the LNR management committee to pronounce the end of this 2019-20 season, and to focus on the organisation of the launch of the 2020-21 editions of the two championships starting in September 2020.”

Bordeaux Begles are currently leading the Top 14, eight points clear of Lyon. The league winners are usually decided via semi-finals and finals, but the LNR is yet to announce whether any club will be named as champions.

Clermont were due to face Racing 92 in the Champions Cup quarter-finals - which were scheduled to take place on 4 and 5 April - with Toulouse set to play Irish side Ulster.

Fellow Irish province Leinster are also still in the European competition alongside English teams Saracens, Northampton and Exeter.

'Numerous hurdles to overcome' - analysis

Chris Jones, BBC rugby union correspondent

Unlike their English counterparts, the French clubs do not want to resort to playing without crowds, and with mass gatherings banned until September, the focus will now be on trying to start the 2020-21 season on time.

The Premiership and Pro14 are in a difficult situation, and will be feeling the pressure. While the clubs are in desperate need of the TV money that would come with behind-closed-doors matches, there are numerous hurdles to overcome to make this happen.

Already this week, Glasgow coach Dave Rennie has pointed out the strain it will put on next season's domestic scene if the current campaigns do not get finished until the end of the summer.

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