IRELAND’S SIX NATIONS clash with France in Paris has been postponed due to fears over the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
The decision was announced by French Sports Minister Roxana Mărăcineanu, with the final-day fixture now expected to go ahead on 31 October instead, although the Six Nations have yet to officially confirm that rescheduled date.
Ireland were due to face les Bleus at Stade de France this Saturday but with the French government last night banning gatherings of more than 1,000 people, the fixture has been postponed.
The Six Nations says it is “still awaiting confirmation for the Women’s and U20s fixtures” between Ireland and France that are scheduled to take place on French soil this weekend.
This is the the second Ireland game to be postponed in this year’s men’s Six Nations, with the planned visit of Italy to Dublin last weekend also now due to be played later this year.
England’s visit to Rome this weekend had already been postponed as Italy attempts to fight its severe coronavirus outbreak.
Wales’ planned clash with Scotland in Cardiff this Saturday was thought to be in danger of being postponed but the Six Nations insists the game “will be going ahead as scheduled.”
Ireland’s clash with France and England’s visit to Rome are likely to be rescheduled for the same day on 31 October.
Ireland would, of course, also need to play their rescheduled game against Italy before that, which would ensure that the final day of the Six Nations would have Ireland, England, and France in the running for the title.
There is, however, no official word on when the postponed games will be played, as tournament organisers and unions now face meetings to hammer out the details in what is already a jam-packed professional rugby calendar.
Having stated that Wales v Scotland will go ahead this weekend in the men’s Six Nations, tournament organisers also said the U20 clash between the nations will also proceed as planned.
The fixture between Wales Women and Scotland Women has been postponed after a Scottish player tested positive for Covid-19. A further seven members of the Scotland camp are self-isolating.
For now, the postponements leave Andy Farrell’s Ireland squad in a strange position after playing only three times in this Six Nations.
Ireland opened with home wins against Scotland and Wales before a defeat to England at Twickenham last time out. Farrell’s men will have to accept their campaign pausing on that disappointing note for now.
Ireland will, however, be in the running for the Six Nations title when the championship is finished later this year.
Two bonus-point wins over Italy and France would guarantee Ireland the title, while a bonus-point win against the Italians and a regular four-point win over the French could also secure them the Six Nations trophy.
Whatever about the permutations, Ireland’s players will soon return to their provinces and hope that their Pro14 playing schedules aren’t too heavily disrupted by the coronavirus.
Ulster, Munster, and Connacht have all seen Pro14 games postponed due to the outbreak in Italy.
Leinster and Ulster are due to play in the Champions Cup quarter-finals on the weekend of 4/5 April. That many of their leading stars may have played very little rugby ahead of those huge ties may be a concern.
The reality is that the coronavirus is far bigger than rugby and there may be much more disruption to the calendar on the way.
Ireland’s next scheduled fixtures are the two Tests against the Wallabies in Brisbane on 4 July and Sydney on 11 July.
With November Tests against South Africa, Japan, and Australia, the two rescheduled Six Nations fixtures mean the 2020/21 season is already shaping up to be extremely busy for Farrell’s Ireland.