The final weeks of the Six Nations could be thrown into chaos after an increase in the number of confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in Italy.
Ireland's upcoming clash with the Azurri, although due to be played in Dublin, could be postponed as the spread of the virus in Italy has organisers concerned that fans could unknowingly transport it with them as they travel to cheer their team on.
England's charge for the title, which was reignited by a fantastic win over Ireland at the weekend, is also at risk with the Rugby Football Union in discussions with the Six Nations over their fixture scheduled for Rome on March 14.
Already, two Pro14 matches set to be held in Italy have been called off while the Irish Health Minister has expressed his concern with regards to hosting the side currently rooted to the foot of the table.
“The rugby game is something that needs considerable consideration. This situation is evolving," he said.
- England defeat Ireland 24-12
- Jonathan Joseph's incredible solo run
- Danny Cipriani's emotional video about mental health
"The weekend’s activities have shown there is still an awful lot unknown about the coronavirus and about the path it might take.
"There will be some big decisions in the coming days. Most particularly, I’m thinking of the Ireland-Italy game.”
It would be a real shame if games were to be postponed or called off entirely with the title race shaping up to be the most exciting in many a year.
France, Ireland and England are all in with a shot of glory and a postponement, that may see games played at a much later date, would suck all the life and excitement out of the tournament in a heartbeat.
Back in 2001, when the Foot and Mouth disease ran riot across Europe, Six Nations clashes were held as late as September and October.
It would be an absolute travesty for the 2020 edition of the famous old tournament but it is becoming increasingly difficult to see how it can be avoided.
It seems inevitable that England won't travel to Italy and we may be forced to wait for the best part of a year before a Six Nations champion is crowned.
Of course, the safety of fans and players takes precedence and responsible decisions have to be made - it will be a difficult pill for rugby fans to swallow, but probably a necessary one.News Now - Sport News