Men's, women's and U20 championship fixtures postponed due to outbreak

Italy v England matches latest to be hit by coronavirus

The Italy v England matches – men’s, women’s and U20 – on the final weekend of the Six Nations are the latest to be affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Italian government decreed on Wednesday night that all sport in the country must be played behind closed doors until 3 April to try to stop the spread of Covid-19 and Six Nations organisers have decided to postpone the three championship fixtures in Italy next weekend rather than play in empty stadiums.

England’s men were due to face the Italians at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Saturday 14 March, with the women’s and U20 Sunday fixtures scheduled for Padua and Verona respectively.

A Six Nations statement read: “The decision has now been taken to postpone the three matches between Italy and England, with the intention to reschedule them at later dates.

“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.”

More than 100 people have died in Italy because of the coronavirus and it has had more cases than any other European country.

A statement from the Italian government read: “There will be no sporting events with the presence of the public in order to prevent further contagion opportunities.”

Having already postponed this weekend’s Ireland v Italy matches, the big challenge for the Six Nations now will be trying to find dates in the calendar to reschedule them. There are club fixtures on every weekend until the end of the season and then there are the summer tours.

When matches were postponed in the 2001 championship due to the foot-and-mouth outbreak they were not played until September and October of that year. Further measures being put in place to contain the coronavirus could also affect the ability to reschedule matches.

The England v Wales and Scotland v France matches this weekend are still due to go ahead, but there are also doubts over the France v Ireland match in Paris on 14 March. France are the only team still able to win a Grand Slam this year.

There have already been postponements in the Guinness Pro14 and the league organisers have said: “In the event that any future games are postponed and no alternative dates can be found to ensure the fixture is fulfilled, the board of Celtic Rugby DAC has agreed that both teams will be awarded two match points and the game will be deemed a 0-0 draw.”

The Six Nations will not want to go down this route given the financial impact on unions of cancelling a Test match, but it will be a challenge to find new fixture dates for multiple postponements.

The April issue of Rugby World magazine – focusing on a new generation of Six Nations stars – is out now.

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