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Strict protocols will allow Six Nations to take place: French chief



Bernard Laporte

Bernard Laporte

AFP via Getty Images

Bernard Laporte

French Rugby Federation president Bernard Laporte says this season's Guinness Six Nations Championship "will take place".

And the World Rugby vice-chairman also says there will be an expanded coronavirus testing programme for the tournament, while each country will have "a Covid manager".

France's government is demanding reassurances on safety from England and Ireland before allowing its national side to visit the countries during the Six Nations.

Only the tournament's opening fixture against Italy in Rome on February 6 has been approved by Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu.

The French authorities have concerns over the soaring number of coronavirus cases in the UK and Ireland, and have already barred their clubs from taking part in European competition.

The Six Nations held talks with Paris earlier this week, and discussions will be ongoing as organisers attempt to convince the government that sufficient protocols are in place.

It is highly unlikely the tournament would go ahead without France, who play Ireland in Dublin on February 14 and England at Twickenham on March 13.

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But Laporte has moved to ease fears, stating: "I understand some are sceptical, but it will take place.

"Firstly, because we had, during the autumn (Nations Cup), put in place a protocol which worked very, very well.

"The proof is that as soon as a team, in this case Fiji, detected Covid cases, they were out of the competition. It worked well.

"There is going to be a Six Nations protocol. Once again, all of this makes us very optimistic. We will go further, there will be even more tests.

"We adapt to the conditions, but it's the same principle - a real health bubble.

"A lot of organisation, a lot of foresight, with a Covid manager in each nation. I repeat, it worked well in the autumn, it will work well during this Six Nations time."

Meanwhile, Billy Vunipola is set to be the only member of Saracens' England contingent who will play before the Six Nations opener against Scotland on February 6.

Vunipola starts today's Trailfinders Challenge Cup opener against Ealing at No.8 but all of his colleagues from Eddie Jones' squad are missing from the 23 and are unlikely to participate against Doncaster next weekend either.

Belfast Telegraph