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Ireland v Italy game off amid coronavirus concerns

Ireland were due to host Italy in the Six Nations on Saturday 7 March. Credit: INPHO

Ireland’s Six Nations clash with Italy in Dublin on Saturday 7 March has been called off, due to the risk posed by the spread of coronavirus.

Rugby officials met Irish Health Minister Simon Harris on Wednesday to discuss the game.

In a statement, the IRFU said: “At the outset, we made it clear that the IRFU was supportive of the Government’s need to protect public health in relation to the coronavirus.

“We were then advised, formally, that the National Public Health Emergency team has determined that the series of matches should not proceed, in the interests of public health.

“The IRFU is happy to comply with this instruction.”

We will immediately begin to work with our Six Nations partners to look at the possibility of rescheduling the matches, and would hope to have an update on this in the coming days.

– IRFU

Speaking after the meeting, Minister Harris said: “A number of decisions were made by our health experts in an effort to contain the spread of Covid-19 and ensure that Ireland plays its role in that regard.

“One of those decisions related to mass gatherings and obviously there was a particular issue in relation to a series of rugby games due to take place on the weekend of 6-8 March.

“It was good to have an opportunity to outline the rationale behind that to the IRFU and I very much appreciate the importance that they too attach to public health, and they were understanding in that regard.”

Ireland were also due to play Italy in an under-20 Six Nations game and in a women’s international that weekend.

This season’s Six Nations has two rounds of scheduled action remaining, and is due to conclude in Paris on 14 March when current tournament leaders and title favourites France host Ireland.

Earlier, Ireland’s chief medical officer said the decision to call for the cancellation of the Ireland v Italy game was “not made lightly”.

Tony Holohan said it was “the only responsible decision that could have been made”.

In 2001, a number of Six Nations games were postponed due to a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.

The IRFU says it is looking into the possibility of rescheduling the Ireland v Italy game. Credit: PA