CONFIRMED: First Six Nations game called off
NEWS: The Coronavirus has claimed the first game of rugby.
The Irish Rugby Football Union confirmed that their match against Italy has been called off.
The IRFU consulted with Irish Health Minister Simon Harris, who had expressed his grave misgivings due to several deaths from the Coronavirus in Italy.
The other matches with Italian teams that weekend – the Under-20 and women – have also been postponed.
“The IRFU had a positive meeting with Minister Harris and his advisors today, where we requested a formal instruction as to the staging of the Ireland v Italy international matches over the weekend of March 6 to 8,” the union said in a statement.
“At the outset, we made it clear that the IRFU was supportive of the government’s need to protect public health in relation to the Coronavirus.
“We were then advised, formally, that The National Public Health Emergency team has determined that the series of matches should not proceed, in the interests of Public Health.
“The IRFU is happy to comply with this instruction.
“We will immediately begin to work with our Six Nations partners to look at the possibility of rescheduling the matches and would hope to have an update on this in the coming days.”
Earlier this week Harris gave an interview with the national broadcaster that has in effect kiboshed the fixture on March 7, saying it would pose a significant risk because of the number of fans that would be travelling from Italy.
There have been 11 deaths in Northern Italy as a result of the respiratory virus.
The news comes after a multitude of sporting matches in Asia and Europe have been interfered with as a result of the spread of coronavirus.
There is a precedent for rescheduling Six Nations matches due to health concerns.
In 2001 due to the highly contagious livestock foot and mouth outbreak Ireland had three matches (against Scotland, Wales and England) rescheduled to September/October of that year.
Meanwhile the Six Nations said all other matches in this season’s edition were “currently scheduled to go ahead as normal”.
“We are fully supportive of any preventative measures taken in the interests of overall public health in relation to the coronavirus and we will respect instructions provided by Government authorities and health organisations,” said a Six Nations statement.
“We will be holding further discussions with all six Unions with respect to the rescheduling options for all the affected games, factoring in the current dynamic situation,” organisers added.
* Additional reporting by AFP