Cardiff Blues’ win against Newport Gwent Dragons on Saturday finally confirmed seventh place in the Pro12, and with it an away Champions Cup play-off semi-final against our seventh place counterparts from France’s Top14.
With any one of about six teams in the running to take that spot going into Saturday evening’s final round it was an interesting watch for Cardiff fans as the picture changed almost by the minute.
In the end it was Stade Francais who finished up claiming seventh courtesy of an admirable losing bonus point away at Montpellier and a late turnaround back home in Paris which saw Racing 92 snatch victory from Bordeaux.
With none of the prospective opponents being preferable in terms of playing level, there was at least some good news for Cardiff fans as the final day Top14 results meant we didn’t have to wait until next week’s Challenge Cup Final to determine our opponents, and a trip to Paris is always an enjoyable one.
However, there is now some fresh doubt over who our opponents might be as a controversial fall-out from the Top14 final round began immediately upon the conclusion of the regular season last night.
Stade Francais have made a complaint to the Top14’s governing body, Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR), regarding Montpellier playing the suspended South African lock Jacques Du Plessis, who came on as a 41st minute substitute.
Du Plessis was not announced in Montpellier’s official matchday squad in the week prior to Saturday’s game, but appeared on the teamsheet a few hours before kick-off despite picking up his third yellow card of the season last week against La Rochelle.
LNR rules state any player who receives three yellow cards in one season will receive a suspension, and indeed it was reported in the French media last week that the South African would be unavailable for round 26 of the Top14.
Clarification will be required from the LNR though, as article 720-2 of their regulations state that a player summoned to appear before a disciplinary committee will not be subject to any automatic suspensions until after their hearing.
It is believed Montpellier did seek clarification from the LNR over this issue, explaining why Du Plessis was initially excluded from the team announcement, and with Du Plessis scheduled to appear on the 17th May it is likely he was in fact free to play on Saturday.
Whatever the outcome of Stade Francais’ complaint there should not be too much disruption for Cardiff fans, as if they are successful then Stade will likely be awarded the win over Montpellier and climb above city rivals Racing 92, meaning we will still face a Parisian side in the play-offs.
The only slight concern would be the dragging of feet from the French powers that be, or any appeal over the complaint decision, resulting in the whole drama causing the play-off game to be delayed, but with Top14 play-offs that weekend as well you’d like to think the LNR will want to get this over with quickly.
It would also help the Cardiff Blues coaching staff to have the game confirmed sooner rather than later so they can start preparing for the game, but whatever the result I’m sure it will be an enjoyable weekend for all.
As things stand the European Professional Club Rugby website states the game could be played on either the 19/20/21st May. When a final decision will be made is unclear but I’d suggest it will be dictated by TV companies, and with play-offs of the Top14, Pro12 and Premiership taking place that weekend, we will be low down the pecking order.
Follow me on Twitter over the next few days and I shall try to keep you as updated as possible!