Coronavirus: England’s Six Nations finale in Italy is postponed
Six Nations organisers intend to reschedule the match at a later date
England’s Six Nations game against Italy in Rome on 14 March has been postponed indefinitely, reports The Times, after the Italian government ruled it would have to be played behind closed doors.
With the number of deaths from coronavirus in Italy now in three figures, Giuseppe Conte, the Italian prime minister, issued a decree yesterday that supporters would be barred from attending all sporting events until 3 April in an attempt to curtail the spread of the virus.
That includes Lyon’s trip next week to Juventus in the second leg of the Champions League last 16.
According to the Times the Italian Rugby Federation and the Six Nations discussed whether to comply with the decree or postpone the match until after the ban is lifted. The decision was the latter.
Reschedule at a later date
Six Nations organisers said in a statement today: “Six Nations notes the decree issued by the Italian Government on 4 March with respect to all upcoming sporting events in that country.
“The decision has now been taken to postpone the three matches between Italy and England [men’s, women’s, and U20] set to take place over the weekend of 13/14/15 March, with the intention to reschedule them at later dates.
“Based on the information that is currently available, all other Six Nations matches are set to go ahead as scheduled.
“As previously stated, Six Nations fully intends to complete all 15 games across all three championships when time allows. We will refrain from making any rescheduling announcements while we keep assessing the situation.
“Six Nations will continue to monitor developments with our unions and their respective governments and health authorities.
“We remain fully supportive of any preventative measures taken in the interests of overall public health in relation to the coronavirus and we will respect instructions provided by government authorities and health organisations.”
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The Sun says the news will “cause chaos for 20,000 Red Rose fans who have already booked travel for England’s final game of the tournament”.
Last week Ireland postponed their match in Dublin against Italy, scheduled for this Saturday, and the abandonment of their final fixture against England means the Italians’s tournament is over.
It also means a further headache for the tournament organisers.
The Six Nations committee had met in Paris on Monday to confirm that the other two matches scheduled for this weekend - England vs. Wales and Scotland vs. France - will go ahead.
With a packed domestic and European club between now and June, the earliest opportunity to replay the Ireland vs. Italy match would be 27 June, when there are no club matches, but England are due to depart on that weekend for a Test series in Japan.
That tour, of course, could be in jeopardy, given what The Times describes as the “unpredictable nature of the outbreak”.
France vs. Ireland in doubt
The biggest losers from the disrupted tournament are likely to be France, the only unbeaten team in the championship, and favourites to win their first Six Nations title since 2010.
They play their penultimate game against Scotland on Sunday - which recent form suggests they will win - and are then due to host Ireland in Paris in their final match on 14 March.
But the Times says that game is also “in doubt” after the French Rugby Federation met with government authorities yesterday to discuss a postponement.
Ireland are scheduled to tour Australia this summer and France are due in Argentina, so the most likely date to play the match would be in October, by which time the notoriously inconsistent French could have lost the momentum they have built up in recent weeks.
Moreover, despite the announcement from the Scottish Rugby Union that it will be implementing a “wide range of measures to protect public health” for Sunday’s match against France, (including the provision of hand sanitisers for all fans), it is expected that the French government will forbid supporters from flying to Edinburgh.