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Coronavirus: Six Nations hangs in the balance as further fixture disruption on cards following postponed Ireland clash


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Ireland's Six Nations clash with Italy has been postponed

Ireland's Six Nations clash with Italy has been postponed

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell is now facing the prospect of not having a game for three weeks leading into the tough trip to Paris on March 14. (Adam Davy/PA)

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell is now facing the prospect of not having a game for three weeks leading into the tough trip to Paris on March 14. (Adam Davy/PA)

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Ireland's Six Nations clash with Italy has been postponed

The IRFU are working frantically with their Italian counterparts and Six Nations chiefs to find a suitable date to rearrange their postponed fixture as the tournament hangs in the balance.

Further disruption to the remaining Six Nations schedule looks inevitable as the threat of the coronavirus rapidly spreads across Europe.

Officials were privately conceding the immediate future of this year's tournament is in danger. The British government was last night in talks with the RFU about whether England should follow Ireland's lead and postpone their March 14 clash with Italy because of the disease's threat.

Public Health England is advising those returning from northern Italy to self-isolate if they have symptoms of the virus. If it determines that England's game should not go ahead, the RFU would be duty-bound to agree.

Rome is not affected by the outbreak and the Six Nations issued a statement saying that "all other matches are currently scheduled to go ahead as normal".

However, it added that it would continue to monitor the situation.

There are financial implications for games being called off, particularly because Six Nations home matches are a major cash cow for all unions, including the IRFU.

As well as that, ranking points are crucial this year ahead of the draw for the 2023 World Cup, which takes place in November.

A home game against Italy would have significantly helped Ireland in both regards, as they aim to ensure a top-four ranking ahead of the draw. The IRFU have encouraged ticket holders to retain their tickets.

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Ireland are due to travel to Australia for a two-Test tour in July, which is one game less than they would normally play in summer.

It remains to be seen if there will be scope to play Italy in the summer or it could be pushed to the autumn, as was the case in 2001, when Foot and Mouth disease caused three of Ireland's Six Nations games to be played later in the year.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell is now facing the prospect of not having a game for three weeks leading into the tough trip to Paris on March 14.

The IRFU have confirmed that a mini two-day camp, including an open training session against the Ireland U-20s in Donnybrook tomorrow, will go ahead as scheduled. An update on the rescheduling of Ireland's meeting with Italy is expected in the coming days.


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