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D-day for Six Nations as sporting world considers coronavirus precautions

 

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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

The Six Nations championships will face emergency talks today to decide whether to postpone England's final match, against Italy in Rome, after the Italian government last night instructed that all sporting events must be played behind closed doors until at least April 3 because of the threat of the coronavirus.

The move to impose a restriction on all sporting events has left the Six Nations with a difficult decision, with more than 20,000 England supporters due to travel to Rome for the championship finale on March 14.

However, fans had already begun cancelling trips to the Italian capital, given their own fears about the outbreak, even though travel insurance claims would be reliant on government direction in Britain.

Ireland's match against Italy at the Aviva Stadium has already been postponed on direction of the Government and the indications last night were that England's match is also likely to be played at a later date rather than behind closed doors, given the loss of ticket revenue and corporate hospitality sales, which will be worth over €5 million to the Italian Rugby Federation.

France's final match against Ireland in Paris is also in doubt, with the French government considering similar restrictions to contain the spread of the virus.

However, it is understood there is currently no threat to England's match against Wales at Twickenham on Saturday.

The challenge facing the Six Nations now is finding dates for any outstanding games to be replayed, with the fixture schedule leaving little room for manoeuvre given the impact of the World Cup in Japan last October and November.

England's football friendly with Italy at Wembley on March 27 also looks increasingly in doubt.

The Italian football league's governing body has yet to release a revised fixture schedule following yesterday's decision, but it is understood six Serie A matches that were postponed last week will be played this weekend under the behind-closed-doors restrictions.

That includes one of the biggest matches of the season - the Juventus v Inter top-of-the-table game.

There are also doubts across Europe over the fate of Champions League and Europa League matches in the coming weeks.

Despite the coronavirus crisis gathering pace, Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, told media yesterday that cancelling or postponing Tokyo 2020 was not discussed at a key meeting between officials, while the US Masters committee are also confident that the event will go ahead. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk