| 7°C Belfast

Keatley: I have to go back to Italy, even if it means quarantine



Tough spot: Benetton’s Ian Keatley in Newport last weekend

Tough spot: Benetton’s Ian Keatley in Newport last weekend

�INPHO/Ryan Hiscott

Tough spot: Benetton’s Ian Keatley in Newport last weekend

Ian Keatley is facing a predicament in that he has been at home in Dublin with his family for the last few days, but is due to fly back to Italy this weekend.

He knows that if he boards that plane on Sunday, he is facing the very real possibility of being quarantined in his second home in Treviso.​

With Italy currently on lockdown, it's risky business, yet Keatley is mindful of the fact that Benetton are his employers and the squad are due to train on Monday.​

Keatley's wife Lisa and their two-year-old daughter Beth made the decision to get out while they could and, for the last fortnight, they too have been back in Ireland.​

The family ensured they were tested for coronavirus upon landing at home, and although none of them tested positive, the heightened sense of awareness means that they are very much mindful of their surroundings.​

Unless Keatley is told otherwise, he will return to Treviso, but his wife and daughter have already decided that they will not be going back just yet.​

However, as the former Ireland out-half, who enjoyed spells with Connacht and Munster after leaving the Leinster system, succinctly puts it, Ireland could end up being impacted by the coronavirus as much as Italy has.​

"I'm wondering if I am going to be the only crazy person flying from Dublin straight into a red zone," Keatley admitted.​ "But then again, I have to think of the bigger picture. Benetton pay my wages. If I get in and get quarantined, I will have to do that.​

"I'm not afraid of getting coronavirus because I know I am fit and healthy, but it is concerning, so I already sent my family home.​ I saw them this week but, if I go over, I probably won't be able to get out again for another month or my family won't be able to come to me.​

"I am looking at four weeks without seeing them, which is tough, but obviously I would prefer them to stay here - although, in a couple of weeks, Ireland could be in the same scenario as Italy, which is a crazy thought.​

"The main thing I am worried about is the two girls. I just want to make sure my girls are okay.​

"It's the fear of the unknown because no one really knows if or when this will die down."

Keatley has been named Benetton captain in recent games, and after putting in a man-of-the-match performance in their crucial win over the Dragons last Friday, he sought permission from the club to fly to Dublin rather than back to Venice.​

With Benetton's Guinness PRO14 game against Ulster postponed, as well as this month's back-to-back meetings with Munster, they were happy to allow him to spend time with his family.​

That will be cut short come Sunday, and while Keatley is coming to terms with the fact that he doesn't know when he will see Lisa or Beth again, he is also preparing himself for what may lie ahead back in Treviso.

"The northern part of Italy is on lockdown," said the 17-times-capped international.​

"Benetton expect me at training on Monday, even though we don't know when the next match will be played.​ When they quarantined north Italy, which is 16 million people, everyone was trying to flee from the north to the south. That's why they put the whole of Italy under quarantine.​

"But because we are a professional rugby team, we are actually still allowed to train. What they want us to do is train in small groups of six or eight. That's what will happen."

As frustrating as the postponed games have been, Benetton do not know when they will be allowed to play.​ With contracts up for grabs and the club looking to mount a late end-of-season charge, these are hugely stressful times for the players.​

Keatley is aware that other teams are wary of having to play against his side, but he is keen to point out that Benetton are taking every precaution necessary to ensure that they can return to action as soon as possible.​

"Nobody has gotten it around the Treviso or Venice area, where most of us live," the 32-year old said.​ "It's not a fear that one of us gets it, but if one player does get it, it can affect 40 to 60 others, which could affect our families.

"A lot of the guys have grandparents or mothers and fathers with underlying health conditions. That's the biggest fear for the squad at the moment.

"They have been checking our temperatures every day and if we show any symptoms, we have been told not to come in, a doctor will arrive to us.​ I don't think other teams want to play us now in case they contract the coronavirus. I think the media have really put a lot of fear into people.​

"The reason why there are so many findings of coronavirus in Italy is because they have tested over 50,000 people. If other countries started testing as much as Italy, I think they are going to find more positive cases."​

For now, Keatley is hoping to enjoy as much time as possible with Lisa and Beth before he has to wave goodbye. His Italian adventure wasn't supposed to turn out like this, but he is keeping everything in perspective.​

Belfast Telegraph