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Confirmed: Italy v England postponement puts Six Nations in crisis as PRO14 schedule also falls victim to coronavirus

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England players in training, ahead of their clash with Wales on Saturday. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

England players in training, ahead of their clash with Wales on Saturday. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

PA

England players in training, ahead of their clash with Wales on Saturday. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

England's final Guinness Six Nations match against Italy in Rome on March 14 has been postponed due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

Tournament organisers faced the option of playing the game behind closed doors at the Stadio Olimpico or delaying it until later in the year and have chosen the latter option.

The accompanying Italy v England fixtures for the women and Under-20s have also been called off.

The decision comes after an Italian government decree issued on Wednesday night said Serie A matches would not be open to the public until April 3 in an attempt to halt the spread of Covid-19.

It is the second game of the 2020 Six Nations to be postponed after Ireland's clash with Italy in Dublin on Saturday also called off on public health grounds.

The decision comes after an Italian government decree issued on Wednesday night said Serie A matches would not be open to the public until April 3 in an attempt to halt the spread of Covid-19.

Italy is the European country most affected by the coronavirus with in excess of 3,000 people infected - a number that includes over 100 deaths. Eleven towns in northern Italy are in lockdown.

Six Nations organisers are being guided by government directives in deciding the fate of games and, in light of the decree, activated their contingency plan to find a new date for games affected by the virus.

"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 13th/14th/15th March, with the intention to reschedule them at later dates," a Six Nations statement read.

"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."

Although there is no postponement of the surviving four games of the competition planned as yet, the statement added they "will continue to monitor developments with our unions and their respective governments and health authorities."

PRO14 Rugby have also announced that fixtures involving Munster and Connacht against Benetton and Zebre on March 21 and March 28 respectively have been postponed.

A statement issued by the league said that "PRO14 Rugby has taken this action in order to protect the well-being of our participating clubs' players, other staff and supporters, and provide some degree of certainty in an evolving situation."

PA Media