Saturday 25 February 2017

Ireland battling to avoid September Six Nations refixture

Hugh Farrelly

The protective covering fails to prevent the Stade de France pitch from the freezing conditions which caused Ireland's game with France to be postponed
The protective covering fails to prevent the Stade de France pitch from the freezing conditions which caused Ireland's game with France to be postponed

IRELAND are squaring off with France and the Six Nations over the rescheduling of last Saturday's postponed international, desperate to stave off moves to have the match moved to September.

The Six Nations confirmed yesterday that the game would not take place next weekend and are due to make an announcement on the date today, with French clubs rebelling against the proposed weekend of March 3/4 because it clashes with a round of Top 14 fixtures.

The French clubs asked the Six Nations to reschedule the match for June 9, the same day Ireland are due to play New Zealand in Auckland in the first of three Tests, with a September date the suggested alternative.

The Six Nations want the game to take place on the spare weekend between what would have been rounds three and four of the tournament.

However, the French clubs are furious that, after the World Cup last autumn, 10 of their Top 14 weekends have clashed with international fixtures, and they are understood to be demanding significant compensation.

The postponement means France and Ireland may have to play four internationals on successive weekends, with both countries desperate to avoid a six-day turnaround between games.

Thus, Ireland want the game played on Saturday, March 3, seven days before they play Scotland, while France would prefer it to be held the next day, as they play the Scots the previous Sunday.

Ireland and France are also at war over tickets. The Irish Rugby Football Union want the estimated 5,000 Irish fans who had tickets for last Saturday's match to be reimbursed, while the French merely want those tickets to be valid for the rearranged international.

The Six Nations council are due to meet at noon today and will seek to bring clarification to the various controversies. Ireland have cancelled this week's two-day training camp in Belfast and will instead have a one-day get-together in Carton House tomorrow.

A squad of 30 players will gather in the Kildare camp, after which all players outside the starting XV that were selected to play France will be released to their provinces for game time in the Pro12.

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