All fixtures in the current Guinness Pro14 season have been postponed in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The unprecedented shut-down is under "constant review"

Guinness Pro14 suspended indefinitely

This season’s Guinness Pro14 has been suspended in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Eight of the 21 regular-season rounds have still to be played, with the next set of games due to take place next weekend (20-22 March).

Future fixtures involving the two Italian clubs, Benetton and Zebre, had already been postponed, but now bosses at Pro14 Rugby have decided to bring a halt to the competition in light of the escalating pandemic.

Benetton rugby

No play: Italian side Benetton had already had two upcoming games against Munster postponed (Inpho)

A statement from Pro14 Rugby read: “The Pro14 is an international league. Cross-border travel is inevitable and that brings with it unique challenges. With governments in Italy and Ireland already putting in place clear directives and restrictions around public activities and travel, the decision to suspend the competition is appropriate.

“It is in the best interests of everyone that games are not played at this time. The suspension has been directed by the board of Celtic Rugby DAC and will remain under constant review.”

Previously, it had been speculated that any postponed fixtures that couldn’t be played on a future date – because of the congested calendar – would result in a 0-0 draw being declared and two points being awarded to each side. This happened with three fixtures at last year’s weather-affected Rugby World Cup in Japan.

However, the suspension of the competition raises the spectre of this season’s Pro14 simply being left uncompleted. Defending champions Leinster and Edinburgh currently lead the respective conferences, with a play-off system scheduled to follow ahead of the final on 20 June in Cardiff City Stadium.

What happens now is anyone’s guess because this is an unprecedented situation.

David Jordan, tournament director of Pro14 Rugby, said: “We have made this decision with everyone’s welfare foremost in our minds. With an evolving situation in the five countries that take part in the Guinness Pro14, it’s important to make a clear decision that is in keeping with the advice of the various governments involved.”

This weekend’s Six Nations programme – men’s, women’s and U20 tournaments – has been decimated by the outbreak. Only two of the nine fixtures – the men’s and U20 Wales-Scotland games – are going ahead as planned.

Related content: France v Ireland postponed

Scotland v Wales, 2019

Going ahead: Wales and Scotland clash in last year’s Six Nations. The sides meet again on Saturday (Getty)

And today’s Pro14 announcement was followed swiftly by a press release from EPCR, the body overseeing next month’s Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup quarter-finals.

It said they were “closely monitoring developments” and added that “an update regarding the matches will be communicated as soon as practicable. EPCR remains fully supportive of the preventative measures which have been introduced to date in the interest of overall public health and will respect further directives by governments and local authorities.”

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

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