| 16.6°C Dublin

England clash is on brink

Rome match to be played behind closed doors or will be postponed


Mako Vunipola has been stood down by England

Mako Vunipola has been stood down by England

Mako Vunipola has been stood down by England

England's final Six Nations match against Italy will either be played behind closed doors or postponed due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

It comes after an Italian government decree released last night said all sporting events in the country would not be open to the public until April 3 in an attempt to halt the spread of Covid-19.

Sources at the Italian Rugby Federation and Italian Olympic Committee have confirmed that England's climax to the Championship could now be replayed at a later date.

All sport in Italy will be played behind closed doors until April 3 in an effort to contain coronavirus. Italy is the worst-hit European country with some 3,090 cases and 107 deaths.

England have revealed that their camp environment influenced the decision to stand Mako Vunipola down from Saturday's Six Nations clash with Wales.

Vunipola returned from Tonga over the weekend having flown back via Hong Kong - a location of a significant coronavirus outbreak - and on Monday was named in a training squad for the Twickenham showdown.

Although asymptomatic for Covid-19 and not self-isolating, Vunipola was then withdrawn before the players gathered at England's Surrey training camp.

But in a twist, the Lions prop's club Saracens announced on Wednesday morning that he had been fully involved in training at Allianz Park and is contention to play in Saturday's Gallagher Premiership clash with Leicester.

Shaping the decision made by England's head of medicine Dr Simon Kemp and team doctor Dr Richard Tingay was the close-knit surroundings of England's camp, where players are in close proximity for long spells of the day.

"Our medical team looks at our team environment, not other people's, and that's the advice we followed," England assistant coach Steve Borthwick said.

"We are a camp-based environment and we stay in together 24 hours a day effectively.

"Mako didn't come into camp on the advice of our medical team, who looked into the situation closely and as a precaution advised us that the best thing for our environment was for him not to come in.

"Mako is not ill, he is not in self-isolation, but the advice we got for our environment from our medical team and the relevant parties they consulted was that he should not come into camp. So that's the advice we followed."


Vunipola was visiting Tonga with his younger brother Billy for unspecified personal reasons, but both are now back in north London.

"Neither Billy or Mako have displayed symptoms of the coronavirus (Covid-19) and on their return to London were assessed by the club's medical staff," a Saracens statement read.

"The duo have been around the Saracens environment for the past couple of days, with the latter available for selection this weekend."

"Travellers returning from Hong Kong are not currently subject to mandatory quarantine or self-isolation unless they become symptomatic.

"Saracens will continue to follow the Public Health England and World Health Organisation regulations surrounding coronavirus and the medical staff will be closely monitoring Billy and Mako on a regular basis."

England's decision over Vunipola has been made easier by the presence of Joe Marler and Ellis Genge, two high-quality looseheads who are arguably the preferred starter and replacement to face Wales on current form.

Vunipola was rested for the Six Nations opener against France, started against Scotland six days later and was then ruled out against Ireland due to his sudden departure for Tonga.

Eddie Jones said he was highly unlikely to be involved against Wales only to initially name him in the squad that was quickly revised.