Catalans upset over Leeds match decision

Ian Laybourn
Israel Folau (r) and his Catalans team will play Leeds behind closed doors in France this weekend

Israel Folau's Catalans Dragons have expressed their "strong regret" after Leeds and the English Rugby Football League declined to rearrange Saturday's Super League match, which will be played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus.

Fearful of the cost of barring fans from attending the match in France, Catalans chairman Bernard Guasch asked the Rhinos to either switch the fixture or put back Saturday's game to later in the season.

However, Leeds were keen to go ahead with the fixture in Perpignan and the RFL agreed.

A decision by the French government to ban public gatherings of more 1,000 will also affect the Dragons' scheduled home game against Sonny Bill Williams' Toronto on April 11 and could impact on the finances of the Super League club, which has 5,500 season-ticket holders.

Guasch said "We strongly regret this decision which will hugely impact the finances of the club with revenues already anticipated in our annual budget."

The RFL says among the factors behind its decision were the absence of free weekends later in the season, the unreasonable financial impact that would have been caused to Leeds if the fixtures were switched and the importance of maintaining the integrity of the Super League competition.

Leeds say they welcomed the decision and will fly out on Friday morning to face former Wallabies wing Folau's Dragons side.