England and Italy STILL planning for Six Nations finale in Rome, despite Ireland calling off match with the Azzurri due to coronavirus outbreak
- The Six Nations has seen fixture disruption with the spread of coronavirus
- The Irish government called off their home game with Italy on Saturday week
- Officials at the RFU are confident England’s game in Rome will still go ahead
- The title could still be up for grabs with France, England and Ireland contenders
The Six Nations are scrambling to salvage this season’s championship amid the devastation wrought by coronavirus.
Ireland’s home match against Italy on Saturday week has been postponed and doubts have grown over England’s visit to Rome the following weekend.
Officials at the RFU and the Italian Rugby Federation have expressed confidence that Eddie Jones’ side will be able to finish their campaign as planned at the Stadio Olimpico on March 14.
Officials in Italy and the RFU are confident England’s game in Rome will still go ahead
The title could still be up for grabs, but whether the fixture goes ahead will ultimately be decided by the public health advice each union receives from their respective governments.
The Irish government acted decisively in postponing three matches against Italy after the death toll in the country rose to 12 from 378 reported cases. The women’s and Under 20 fixtures scheduled for March 8 in Dublin were also put on hold, putting the viability of the Six Nations in doubt.
Officials from all six countries and the organising committee will hold talks in the next few days about how and when to rearrange postponed fixtures.
The Irish government postponed their home match with Italy amid health concerns over travel
The women’s and Under 20 fixtures scheduled for March 8 in Dublin were also put on hold
The Six Nations seems certain to over-run, as it did following postponements due to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001 when it was not completed until October.
The next available date which would not cause huge disruption to the club calendar is the European Cup semi-final weekend at the start of May.
Grand Slam-chasing France or England may have won the Six Nations by then, but as it stands, Ireland could still have a chance if their rivals slip up.
The Italian sports ministry briefed the Six Nations that there are no plans to extend the current travel restrictions in place which are due to expire on Sunday, as well as pointing out that Lazio’s Serie A game with Bologna in the Stadio Olimpico will go ahead on Saturday.
Up to 20,000 England fans are planning to travel to Rome for the climax of their Six Nations campaign, but their number may restricted amid concerns that the outbreak of the virus in northern Italy could spread.
The title could still be up for grabs with France, England and Ireland contenders to triumph
England hooker Jamie George is confident the players could cope with any disruption after their experience at last year’s World Cup in Japan, where their training base was moved and a group game against France cancelled due to a typhoon.
‘What we can do is take a huge amount of confidence from the way we dealt with Typhoon Hagibis in Japan,’ he said. ‘We’ve got the best admin staff around so we know we can deal with whatever. As a team we’re confident the best decision will be made and we will be in the best position. It’s a tough situation, but out of our control.’
The Football Association are also liaising with the Government as Italy are due at Wembley for a friendly against England on March 27, but there are no plans yet to postpone the Euro 2020 warm-up game. UEFA confirmed they are still working to the planned timetable for that tournament, which is due to kick with Italy v Turkey in Rome on June 12, but will review the situation.
‘Euro 2020 will kick off on June 12, 2020 in Rome,’ a statement read. ‘UEFA is in touch with the relevant international and local authorities regarding coronavirus and its development. For the moment, there is no need to change anything in the planned timetable. The issue will be kept under constant scrutiny.’
England hooker Jamie George is confident the players could cope with any disruption
Racing’s Cheltenham Festival will go ahead with director Ian Renton saying there are no plans to limit the 250,000 spectators who attend every year or stage the four-day event behind closed doors, the policy adopted in recent weeks by racing authorities in Hong Kong.
‘In reality we are here to stage the Festival for owners, trainers, the horses and racegoers,’ Renton said. ‘That is what the Festival is all about.’
The Olympics are also set to go ahead as planned in July and August, though Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has called for sport in the country to be scrapped for a fortnight to halt the spread of the virus. England and Wales are due in Japan for rugby tours this summer.
The tournament seems certain to overrun as it did in 2001 because of foot-and-mouth disease
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