French rugby’s plans to finish its club season with a late-summer playoff drew criticism from the president of reigning champions Toulouse.
“Restarting a season with the playoffs, just for the principle of having them doesn’t make sense,” Didier Lacroix said on Thursday in an interview with the weekly Midi Olympique.
The league (LNR) is considering a four-team final tournament at the end of the summer to conclude the current season, based on league placings when play was suspended.
“The final phase is the summit of a season,” Lacroix said. “We’d take them out of the context, just to play two or three matches as soon as we are allowed to resume.”
Normally the top six teams would qualify for the post-season. Toulouse were seventh after the last round of matches played, but within one victory of third place.
The plan means leaders Bordeaux-Begles would face Toulon and Lyon would play Racing 92 in the semi-finals before a grand final at the Stade de France set for the scheduled opening day of the 2020-2021 season.
“At that time, they’re usually friendly matches because we don’t have the cohesion or the energy or the returning strength,” Lacroix said.
“We can say ‘special condition, special solution’, I understand that, but I don’t think we can throw away this duty to remember the finals, this moment magnified for those who were lucky enough to play in them or to experience them,” said Lacroix, who won the French title six times as a player with Toulouse.
He said the LNR must try “whatever the cost” and “whatever the dates” to continue the current championship, although he acknowledged that depended on “decisions made by others.”
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He also said rugby needed to be played before a crowd.
“Behind closed doors, in Toulouse, but also in other clubs, rugby would not last more than a month and a half,” he said.
When the season was halted, Toulouse still had nine rounds to haul themselves into the Top 14 playoffs and were also looking forward to a home European Cup quarter-final against Ulster.