Leicester in Challenge Cup semis as Castres forced to forfeit due to COVID-19

(Reuters) - Leicester Tigers reached the semi-finals of the second-tier European Challenge Cup after their last-eight game with Castres Olympique was called off due to COVID-19 positives in the French side, European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) said on Saturday.

Premiership side Leicester were set to host the Top14 team on Sunday, but EPCR said a medical panel met by video conference on Friday after Castres confirmed three players and one staff member had tested positive before their departure to England.

"EPCR has decided to cancel the match between Leicester Tigers and Castres Olympique," EPCR said in a statement here.

“Castres have to forfeit the match and Leicester will qualify for the Challenge Cup semi-finals,” it said.

“The decision followed a meeting of a medical committee comprising medical leads from the unions, league bodies and both clubs, and subsequent independent medical advice.”

Leicester, who will play Toulon or Scarlets in the semis, said in a statement here that safety must come first.

“While the return of professional sport is welcomed... there is a responsibility to the game of rugby and to the protection of colleagues within Premiership Rugby and European competition with more rounds of fixtures still to be played,” they said.

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson