Connacht have qualified for the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup following Cardiff's walkover win against Toulouse.

It is the first time that the Westerners have made it out of the pool stages of Europe's premier club rugby competition.

"Following the cancellation of Toulouse/Cardiff, our place in the Round of 16 is now confirmed," the province, who face Stade away on Sunday, said on Twitter.

"For the first time ever, we reach the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup! A great achievement for our players & management, and we're not done yet."

However, the result leaves holders Toulouse sweating on other results.

The five-time winners face a nervy weekend to see if they will remain in the competition following the decision to award Cardiff a walkover win in Pool B.

A "significant number of positive Covid-19 test results" in the Toulouse squad has led to organisers EPCR cancelling the tie and awarding the game to Cardiff on a 28-0 scoreline.

The Welsh outfit will pick up five match points for the game, while Toulouse will remain seventh in the standings on seven points with the possibility that Wasps, Castres and Stade Francais could overtake them after the weekend's matches.

It also puts Cardiff in the qualification picture, which is remarkable in itself after they tackled Toulouse and Harlequins before Christmas without numerous players due to quarantining in South Africa – where they had been due to play two United Rugby Championship fixtures – and on their return to the UK.

We need your consent to load this comcast-player contentWe use comcast-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Wasps would overtake Toulouse if they take two points from Sunday's match in Thomond Park against Munster.

A bonus-point win for Castres, or a victory by more than seven points, away to Harlequins would move them above the five-time champions.

Stade, meanwhile, would need maximum points from their game at home to Connacht plus a winning margin of 35 points.

The results also means Cardiff move above Wasps on seven points and into the last-16 qualification places.


"Following a meeting of an independent Match Risk Assessment Committee, EPCR has been advised that the Heineken Champions Cup, Round 4 fixture between Stade Toulousain and Cardiff Rugby scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday, 22 January) at Stade Ernest Wallon cannot go ahead," a statement read.

"Discussions with Stade Toulousain and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby took place before the Match Risk Assessment Committee, made up of medical doctors from EPCR's Medical Advisory Group as well as independent medical specialists, advised EPCR of its concerns as Stade Toulousain had recorded a significant number of positive Covid-19 test results from within its tournament squad, and with the risk of further infection deemed to be too great, regrettably the decision was made to cancel the fixture.

"Cardiff Rugby have therefore been awarded the match in Pool A on a 28-0, five match points basis, in accordance with the Tournament Rules."

French rugby chiefs have condemned the decision to cancel the match as "scandalous and totally unfounded".

Rene Bouscatel, president of the Ligue Nationale de Rugby that oversees France’s professional game, said LNR’s directors will meet "as a matter of urgency" when possible legal action will be discussed.

Toulouse, meanwhile, had named a team for the game and published it ahead of the cancellation announcement.

In a statement, LNR said: "Following the announcement of the EPCR to cancel the Champions Cup match between Stade Toulousain and Cardiff Rugby, the LNR condemns a scandalous and totally unfounded decision.

"Toulouse has put together a group of players to field a team fit to play the match, in full compliance with EPCR health regulations and the French health protocol.

"The EPCR’s Covid-19 protocol stipulates that the EPCR applies and defers to the protocol established by the league to which each club belongs, and adheres to the position of the medical authority of this league regarding the possibility for a club to play the match when positive cases are declared.

"In the case of Stade Toulousain, the commission of expertise Covid-19 of the NRL (LNR) has communicated its position Thursday evening, January 20th to the EPCR – this position being that the club could play the match against Cardiff Rugby.

"The decision of the EPCR is therefore taken in violation of its own regulations. It is incomprehensible and seriously prejudices the club and the fairness of the competition."

Bouscatel added: "The Champions Cup is a very prestigious competition. Its organisers cannot afford to make arbitrary decisions that are contrary to its own regulations. This decision is irresponsible.

"I have decided to convene an LNR board of directors’ meeting as a matter of urgency to discuss the follow-up, including legal action, to be taken on this decision."

The Cardiff squad and management had not left Wales, with their scheduled charter flight from Cardiff Wales Airport being cancelled on Friday morning.

Tournament organisers have also been forced to cancel the meeting of Leicester Tigers and Bordeaux-Begles in Pool B, following an outbreak in the Bordeaux squad.

As a result, Leicester have been awarded five match points, which ensures they will finish inside the top two in the Pool.

Listen to the RTÉ Rugby podcast on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Follow Bath v Leinster (Saturday, 1pm), Ulster v Clermont (Saturday, 5.30pm), Stade v Connacht (Sunday, 1pm) and Munster v Wasps (Sunday, 3.15pm) via our live blogs on or on the RTÉ News App, or listen to live radio coverage of Bath v Leinster on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra and RTÉ Radio 1.

Additional reporting: PA