Six Nations still waiting on 'green light' from French authorities
NEWS: Six Nations chief executive Ben Morel remained confident Wednesday the 2021 championship would go ahead as scheduled, even though he was waiting on a coronavirus “green light” from the French authorities with just over a week until the start of the tournament.
The Six Nations’ traditional February-March slot came under a cloud when this month’s final two pool rounds of European club competition were cancelled after the French government said it was unsafe for French clubs to travel when a new Covid-19 variant was becoming increasingly widespread in Britain and Ireland.
Les Bleus are set to open the Six Nations by travelling to Italy on February 6 before heading to Dublin a week later and Twickenham on March 13.
French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu said she needed further “guarantees” from other governments to allow France to face Ireland and England.
But Morel told a virtual Six Nations launch conference call on Wednesday: “In terms of the French authorities, we are in constant dialogue through the FFR [French Rugby Federation].
“The only thing we are awaiting green light and clarification on is the seven-day isolation and to who that applies. We are confident, based on our protocols, that there will be a positive outcome.”
France don’t have a home game in a behind closed doors tournament until the third-round visit of Scotland to Paris on February 28, following one of the competition’s fallow weeks.
But there are concerns both Scotland and Wales, due at the Stade de France on March 20, could have to isolate for a week prior to their matches.
“We are looking at a series of contingencies, but we do not expect to get that problem,” Morel insisted. “We are confident in our ability to stage the matches at the right time.”
Individual teams are also bolstering their own virus counter-measures.
Reigning Six Nations champions England are restricting players to socialising outdoors when in camp, with no indoor team meetings in a bid to reduce the risk of virus transmission.
Face masks must be worn at all times except in bedrooms or when eating, with all personnel told to maintain a two-metre gap, apart from during training.
Players will be able to leave their bio-secure bubble for a few days during each of the championship’s two fallow weeks.
Last year’s hastily created Nations Cup, a response to the collapse of European tours by leading Southern Hemisphere countries, saw teams awarded a 28-0 bonus point win if matches were cancelled because of opposition virus problems, with Fiji losing several fixtures due to a Covid-19 outbreak within their camp.
But Morel said the “primary focus” in the Six Nations would be to reschedule any delayed clashes.
“The reason why we went for immediate results during the Autumn Nations Cup was that it had to progress as a competition because there was a finals weekend.
“In the case of the Six Nations, we’d obviously want to protect the sporting integrity of the Championship as much as possible.”