TORONTO — Canada's rugby international against the French Barbarians on July 4 in Montreal has been called off due to the COVID-10 pandemic.
Rugby Canada said Friday that the French invitational side had cancelled its summer tour of North America, which included a July 11 match against the U.S.
"It was a very difficult decision but necessary in the current context," Denis Charvet, vice-president of the French Barbarian Rugby Club, said in a statement. "We must all act so that the situation evolves positively and that we can resume our activities. And unfortunately, it goes through this cancellation."
The game at Complexe Sportif Claude-Robillard, which would have been the first-ever rugby international in Montreal, was to have been the opening match of the 23rd-ranked Canadian men's quadrennial leading to the 2023 World Cup in France.
A match against No. 12 Italy in Halifax on July 11 remains on the calendar, at least at this stage.
Canada has not played since its World Cup campaign in Japan was cut short last October due to Typhoon Hagibis.
Citing the safety of all concerned, Rugby Canada said it supports the decision to cancel the Montreal game, saying it hoped to welcome the French Barbarians to Canada in the future.
The cancellation will hit Rugby Canada's bottom line. Home games do not come often and the gate revenue is welcome.
CEO Allen Vansen said earlier this month that he anticipates a virus-related decline of $4 million to $6 million this year in gross revenue, although that will be accompanied by a reduction in expenses given the pandemic has forced events to be called off.
In 2017, the most recent figures available, Rugby Canada had $16.2 million in revenue.
Cancellation of the French side's tour will also not help USA Rugby, which has filed for bankruptcy.
It also extends the virus-prompted inactivity for the Canadian men. Some 50 Canadians currently play in North America's Major League Rugby, which cancelled its 2020 season on March 19 after five rounds due to the pandemic.
After July, the Canadians are slated to play in the newly restructured America's Rugby Championship.
They open against the 16th-ranked Americans on Aug. 15 in Glendale, Colo., before returning home to face No. 26 Brazil in Calgary on Aug. 22 and No. 29 Chile in Winnipeg on Aug. 29. Canada then travels to South America for the final two ARC matches against Argentina XV — a Pumas reserve side — on Sept. 5 and No. 17 Uruguay on Sept. 12.
The summer test window was restructured this year by World Rugby and participating unions to accommodate the MLR competition schedule. The window was shifted from June to July and the ARC moved from February/March to August/September.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 10, 2020.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press