Six Nations move Irish matches to next season

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The Independent Online
Rugby officials were united in support of last night's decision to conclude the 2001 Six Nations Championship next season after the postponement of all matches involving Ireland because of the foot and mouth crisis.

Rugby officials were united in support of last night's decision to conclude the 2001 Six Nations Championship next season after the postponement of all matches involving Ireland because of the foot and mouth crisis.

The Six Nations organisers took the unprecedented step of calling off the remainder of Ireland's fixtures after heeding the advice of government officials. The number of cases of foot and mouth are still on the increase and, following the recent ruling that stipulates that no Irish sporting fixtures should take place until 30 days after the last case is recorded, they felt there was no alternative but to postpone the tournament until the new domestic season starts in September.

A statement from the Six Nations' Committee said: "A meeting of the Six Nations' Committee was held this evening to discuss the current status of the foot and mouth epidemic and its effect on the Lloyds TSB Six Nations Championship.

"After reviewing the current position and the likely prognosis for the foreseeable future it has been unanimously decided that the following matches will be postponed until the commencement of next season: Wales v Ireland, Ireland v England and Scotland v Ireland. There will now be consultation with unions and with commercial partners on possible alternative dates before firm dates are set. Further dialogue within the Six Nations Committee will take place in the near future. The committee confirms that England v France will take place on Saturday April 7 and Italy v Wales on April 8."

Although the decision was inevitable in the light of the crisis, it draws a temporary halt to what could have been an intriguing championship.

Having won their opening two matches, Ireland were quietly confident of ending England's reign and are bitterly disappointed at the postponement of their meeting with Clive Woodward's men, which had originally been set for March 24 and has now been put back again from its revised date of May 5. "The Irish Rugby Football Union share in the decision that has been made, and it is absolutely understandable given the circumstances in which it has been taken," the IRFU spokesman, John Redmond, said.

The Rugby Football Union chief executive Francis Baron said the Six Nations Committee had their hands forced and there was no viable alternative. "Obviously we share the disappointment of all rugby supporters following this evening's announcement but we also fully understand and support the reasons behind it," he said.

The Scottish Rugby Union backed the decision, issuing a statement which said: "The Scottish Rugby Union understands the decision taken by the Six Nations Committee to postpone three outstanding fixtures in this season's Lloyds TSB Six Nations Championship, including the Scotland v Ireland fixture which had been rescheduled provisionally for Saturday May 12.

"Supporters are reassured that tickets they have purchased will remain valid for the rescheduled fixture. We will continue to work closely with the Irish Rugby Football Union, the Six Nations Committee and any relevant authorities in order to set a firm date for the fixture as soon as it is practicable."

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