France vs Ireland Six Nations match called off due to coronavirus

Final match of the Six Nations will not go ahead as planned after becoming the third match to be cancelled

Coronavirus: Italy v England postponed amid outbreak

The final match of the Six Nations between France and Ireland has been called off due to the coronavirus outbreak, the French sports minister has confirmed.

Roxana Maracineanu announced on Monday that this Saturday’s fixture at the Stade de France in Paris has been postponed indefinitely, with the number of positive cases and deaths caused by Covid-19 continuing to rise across the country.

Ms Maracineanu did not confirm if or when the match will take place, though the Six Nations are determined to play the remaining matches of the championship at some point this year.

The game is the third match to be postponed, following Italy’s two fixtures against Ireland and England, and it leaves the Six Nations with a backlog of games to play with little availability to do so in an already-bloated calendar.

At present, Saturday’s sole-remaining game between Wales and Scotland is scheduled to go ahead as planned, with the Welsh Rugby Union yet to be told otherwise by either tournament organisers or the British Government. The women’s and under-20’s game between France and Ireland are yet to be postponed, although Wales women’s match with Scotland will not go ahead after a Scottish player was last week found to have tested positive for coronavirus.

A Six Nations statement read:“Following instructions received from the authorities in France, the decision has been made to postpone the Round 5 Guinness Six Nations match between France and Ireland. We are still awaiting confirmation for the Women’s and U20’s fixtures.”

A number of sporting bodies met with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, on Monday, where Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney said there was “no medical rationale” to postpone or player fixtures in the UK behind closed doors.

"The basic message coming out of today is let's not panic, let's monitor the situation and carry on as normal," said Sweeney.

"It was a very good meeting. The start of dialogue together. There was no medical rationale for cancelling events or behind closed doors yet, but clearly it is a moving situation so we'll keep talking and go from there."

As of Monday morning, the UK had 280 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and three people have died in UK hospitals.

It’s currently understood that the weekend of 31 October is being viewed as a likely alternative to stage remaining Six Nations games on, although there will need to be at least two allocated dates as both Italy and Ireland now have two games left to play.

Earlier, Paris police said the Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund will be played behind closed doors. Ms Maracineanu said it was not possible to postpone the football match because of the "crowded" calendar.

France has banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people. The country reported 1,126 cases of the virus as of Sunday, up 19 per cent from the day before and the second largest number of cases in Europe after Italy. So far, 19 people in France have died. Protests, exams and public transport could be exempt from the ban on large gatherings.

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