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Today's Six Nations crisis talks to decide direction of 2020 tournament amid coronavirus fears


Ireland's game in France is in doubt.

Ireland's game in France is in doubt.

Six Nations representatives will today seek clarity over the remainder of the tournament.

Six Nations representatives will today seek clarity over the remainder of the tournament.

©INPHO/James Crombie

Ireland's game in France is in doubt.

Crunch Six Nations talks will take place in Paris today to decide what direction this year's championship will take in light of the coronavirus crisis.

Ireland's final Six Nations clash with France in Paris is in doubt after the French government announced a temporary ban on public gatherings of more than 5,000 people in "a confined space" due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The game - a potential Six Nations decider - is due to take place at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday March 14. However, a Six Nations spokesperson was unable to say if there is any dialogue with the French health ministry over when a review of the ban might take place.

An IRFU spokesman too was unclear as to how long the 'temporary' ban would extend, and expected no update ahead of the scheduled World Rugby meeting in Paris on Monday, which Six Nations representatives will use to try and get clarity on the rest of the tournament.

As a result of this ban in France the Paris half-marathon, which was due to be held on Sunday - with over 40,000 runners set to compete - was postponed.

"All public gatherings of more than 5,000 people in a confined space are temporarily banned across France," Health Minister Olivier Veran told journalists, as 16 new cases of the Covid-19 virus were announced in France.

Today's talks in Paris will also focus on the rescheduling of Ireland's clash with Italy at the Aviva Stadium, which was due to take place this Saturday but was called off following advice from the Government.

Meanwhile, FIFA president Gianni Infantino was in Belfast yesterday and he did not rule out the postponement of soccer internationals.

With Euro 2020 due to take place in 12 different cities across Europe this summer - including Dublin - there will be concerns among football chiefs as the coronavirus crisis escalates.

"I wouldn't rule exclude anything at this moment," said Infantino.

"I hope we will never have to get into this direction. I think it will be difficult in any case to make a global ban because the situation is really different.

"The health of persons is much more important than any football game. At the moment the outbreak looks like it is increasing, If games have to be postponed or played without spectators until it is over, then we have to go through that."

There was a significant spike in the total of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK on Sunday - less than 10 days before the scheduled start of the Cheltenham Festival.

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, reported that the number of positive tests for the virus has risen to 35 after 12 new patients were identified in England.

Whitty said three patients were close contacts of a known Covid-19 case that was transmitted within the UK - believed to be a Surrey resident - while another new patient, from Essex, has no relevant international travel to an affected area.

Of the eight remaining cases, six had recently travelled from Italy - while two had been in Iran. These patients are from London, West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Hertfordshire and Gloucestershire - where the Cheltenham Festival is due to begin on March 10.

The British Horseracing Authority confirmed the latest position of an industry steering group, set up for racing during the outbreak, in a statement on Friday - stressing there remained "no need to develop a policy" in relation to the abandonment of any specific fixtures.

The statement read: "The industry group continues to liaise closely with government and plan for a range of contingencies.

"We would encourage everyone in racing to focus on the government's advice on personal health and their advice to employers and businesses. These are the actions that in the view of public health experts are the most important at this stage.

"Speculation about potential actions from government or racing, whilst wholly understandable in the circumstances, may simply distract from the advice on which the population is being asked to focus.

"At present racing continues as usual and the sport remains in agreement that there is no need to develop a policy regarding abandonment of any specific fixtures due to coronavirus at this time.

"We will continue to speak to government and should a situation arise where this is required then the sport has established mechanisms in place for handling such scenarios."