Friday night fixture ruled out as dust settles on French farce
IRELAND'S postponed Six Nations clash with France will be played on either March 3 or 4 rather than next weekend as the French would prefer.
An announcement on the re-fixture was made late last night following Saturday's last-minute cancellation at the Stade de France with the French Rugby Federation confirming that the match will be played in three weeks' time.
It is felt that, following Saturday night's frozen pitch debacle, a Friday night kick-off will not be risked, ruling out March 2. The French were hoping for the game to be staged in Stade de France next weekend, despite the scheduled Top 14 match between Stade Francais and Toulon next Saturday afternoon.
"I hope so that it will be next Sunday," France coach Philippe Saint-Andre had said. "You have to respect the referee's decision. He is in charge of the players' security and there were two or three places on the pitch that were dangerous. We would have preferred to have played."
Ireland's players were released home after arriving back in Dublin yesterday and are due to have two days off before meeting up in Belfast on Wednesday. Logistically, returning to Paris for a match next weekend would have been highly problematic at such short notice and rescheduling for the start of March, although it would mean four games in a row for both sides, is the better solution -- particularly on the assumption that there will be less risk of freezing temperatures.
The blame game that blew up after Saturday night's farcical scenes in Saint Denis deepened yesterday with confirmation that French television asked to change the kick-off time but were refused by the Six Nations.
The TV stations, mindful of the dangers of the pitch becoming unplayable as temperatures dropped, suggested that the game be played at 3pm instead of 9pm but were turned down by the Six Nations committee.
The IRB also sought to distance themselves from the Six Nations yesterday in the course of a statement offering support to referee Dave Pearson, claiming that the tournament was not under their jurisdiction and all questions should be directed to the Six Nations committee.