Six Nations title race could face disruption due to spread of coronavirus

The Six Nations title race could be thrown into turmoil after doubts were raised over Ireland’s home match with Italy going ahead due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The game is scheduled for Saturday week with the Irish joint second in the table, four points behind France whom they play on the final weekend.

But Irish minister for health Simon Harris said: “This situation is evolving. There will be some big decisions that have to be made in the coming days including mass gatherings.

“Most particularly, I’m thinking of the Ireland-Italy rugby game that’s due to take place in the not-too distant future.”

The last time the championship faced major disruption was in 2001 when the Foot and Mouth crisis forced the postponement of Ireland’s three home games until the following autumn.

Last weekend’s Italy-Scotland clash in the women's Six Nations was called off, Pro14 matches this weekend in Italy involving Ulster and the Ospreys have already gone and there are worries about England’s Six Nations finale in Rome on March 14.

Despite growing concern over the virus, Team GB’s deputy chef de Mission Paul Ford insists there is no immediate threat to the Olympics.

“We’re following the situation, working closely with all the appropriate authorities,” he said. “But everything we’re hearing is that the Games are on track and will happen in the summer.

“We’re five months away so it’s a long period of time. There’s no point getting into a hypothetical discussion around ifs, buts and maybes.

“We are reassured it is being absolutely taken to the highest level inside Japanese government, IOC and World Health authorities to ensure what is right and appropriate for everyone.”

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