Belfast Telegraph

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Ireland await new date for match

Ireland will learn in the next two days when their aborted RBS 6 Nations match against France is to be restaged after it was postponed amid shambolic scenes in Paris on Saturday night.

Supporters' initial fury at the decision of Dave Pearson to abandon the game 10 minutes before kick-off has been replaced by an acceptance the official had no choice due to certain areas of the pitch being frozen by a week of sub-zero temperatures.

Six Nations - the tournament's organisers - have confirmed the match will be staged during one of the break weekends, either February 18 and 19 or March 3 and 4.

Pearson on Sunday received the backing of the International Rugby Board, who released a statement defending his reversal of a pitch inspection conducted around 90 minutes earlier. The statement read: "Player welfare and safety is the primary concern for the IRB and its match officials.

"Having witnessed and assessed the rapid deterioration of the playing surface between the final pitch inspection and the scheduled kick-off time, and following consultation with the match official team, both coaches and championship organisers, Pearson deemed the pitch unplayable on player welfare grounds."

Declan Kidney and Philippe Saint-Andre, the coaches of Ireland and France respectively, accepted Pearson's verdict despite the enormous disruption it would cause to their championships.

"We walked the part of the pitch that he was concerned with and I understand why he made his call," said Kidney. "I'm very disappointed for the supporters and players, but I'd be more disappointed if I was sitting in hospital with somebody who had a very bad injury."

Instead, disgruntled fans have pointed the finger of blame at Six Nations and the French Rugby Federation (FFR). The Stade de France itself has also been condemned for its lack of under-soil heating, a bewildering situation for a ground that was opened in 1998 to host major sporting events, starting with that year's football World Cup.

Last night witnessed a scramble to evade blame for the farcical scenes with Six Nations refusing to take questions on what had unfolded. Six Nations on Sunday night issued a statement clarifying the procedure for postponing matches, highlighting that the home union and referee are the only parties able to make the call.

"There are no other parties that can make a decision to postpone a Six Nations match," stressed the statement.


From Belfast Telegraph