The coronavirus outbreak has caused the postponement of yet another high-profile sporting event – this time claiming Saturday’s scheduled Six Nations clash between France and Ireland.
French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu announced on Monday that the match at Paris’ Stade de France would not go ahead.
The news followed a ban by the French government on any public gatherings of over 1,000 people as the country battles to contain the deadly Covid-19 virus.
As of this past Sunday, per independent.co.uk, France had seen 1,126 cases of the virus – of which 19 had died. The decision to indefinitely postpone the fixture was taken by French politicians, without direct involvement from tournament organisers.
The championship was already facing a delay to its completion, after current leaders England saw their trip to Rome to face Italy this weekend postponed on similar grounds.
After Italy’s match with Ireland, slated for last weekend, also fell victim to coronavirus concerns, both Ireland and Italy now have two games remaining in this year’s tournament.
The France vs Ireland postponement leaves Wales vs Scotland as the only match currently scheduled to take place in the Six Nations this weekend. Neither team can claim the championship, and will be playing for bragging rights alone as they meet in Cardiff.
England, France and Ireland, however, can all still take the Six Nations title.
England lead the table at present on points difference from France, with Ireland in fourth spot also in contention. In order for the championship to reach its natural conclusion, all outstanding matches would need to take place. The question is when exactly that will be possible?
The modern day world rugby calendar is a packed one, with very few weekends available on which big international fixtures could feasibly be staged.
October 31 has been mooted as a possible date on which matches could be scheduled, but with Ireland and Italy both needing to play two fixtures apiece, the solution to this conundrum seems far from straightforward.
Several top sporting events have recently been played behind closed doors, as will be the case when Paris Saint-Germain play Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Whether this is an option that Six Nations chiefs are forced to explore remains to be seen. An official statement from tournament organisers is expected shortly.
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