Tuesday 21 November 2017

Kidney anxious for quick decision on refixture

BRENDAN FANNING at the Stade de France

A decision is expected tomorrow from the Six Nations committee on a new date for last night's postponed tie between France and Ireland at a frozen Stade de France.

In a farcical situation, referee Dave Pearson called the game off 10 minutes before its scheduled kick-off time (9.0pm local time), having passed the pitch playable less than two hours earlier.

In temperatures of -7C, two areas of the pitch in particular hardened up and despite ground staff working on them with hot air machines, Pearson felt it was unsafe.

French Federation president Pierre Camou laid the blame at the door of the English referee, saying that other internationals earlier in the day, at under 20 and women's level, were played without problem.

Supporters were left in the dark until shortly after the appointed kick-off time and remained in their seats for up to half an hour afterwards in furious mood. A Six Nations official urged them to retain their tickets for the new date.

If the game goes ahead next weekend, it will mean Ireland won't have to play four games back-to-back, which would be the case if it's bounced back to the next available window, in three weeks' time.

"I know that if it's next week we'd need the decision fairly lively," Kidney said last night. "We're on a flight tomorrow morning (Sunday) back into Dublin and fellahs have their cars in Dublin airport waiting to get home. It'd be a mental challenge to tell fellahs, 'sorry you're not going home because we have to start training again the following day'. So we'd need to know that now. We were going to have a camp on Tuesday in Belfast.

"You're talking on the margins now (which date is better). What's easier, because four games on the trot is obviously a challenge. I don't know if it's been done before. But it's going to be the same for France then too. 'Easier' probably isn't a word I'd use. We just need to know what is going to happen and get on with it.

"If it's going to be in between Italy and Scotland, we have that 36 hours to get things in place and that's sort of what I'm doing at the moment. If it's going to be next week, I'd need to know now."

Paul O'Connell said that the players had finished their warm-up and were ready for action when the message was relayed to them to stand down.

"It's very frustrating," he said. "We were prepared to play. I wasn't down that side of the pitch myself. Jonny (Sexton) had been down there taking a few kicks and he didn't think it was great either and he was saying Morgan (Parra) was gesticulating to them that it wasn't great either. I didn't see it myself but we were ready to play. I was full sure just before we walked out that it was going to go ahead. It is frustrating."

Kidney stopped short of saying he was angry at what had been allowed to unfold, despite warnings last week from France wing Vincent Clerc that the pitch, which doesn't have undersoil heating and had been covered all week, had frozen in spots in last week's Test with Italy.

"I'm disappointed for the supporters, especially at home now the way the cost of things and what people have put into it. Because it's left to one person (the referee) that's our full focus. He's out there and wondering does he or doesn't he? That's a difficult situation for any one person to be in, he has the final say at the end of the day.

"Everybody said that it was going to be okay -- 9.0 kick-off at night? With hindsight, will people take a look at that and say, 'well what are the chances of that happening?'"

Farce in Paris, See Page 7

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