Six Nations officials declared on Monday that all remaining matches in the championship were going ahead as planned except for the already postponed meeting of Ireland versus Italy in Dublin which had been fixed for next Saturday in Dublin.
However, with the threat of the coronavirus spread still not under control, the Azzurri’s round five clash with the English in Rome is now set to fall by the wayside.
The Guardian’s rolling live blog on the global spread of the coronavirus had reported that a decree, which has been seen by the Reuters news agency, will order “the suspension of events of any nature… that entail the concentration of people and do not allow for a safety distance of at least one metre (yard) to be respected.”
It claimed that Italy’s government was set to close cinemas and theatres and ban public events across the whole country to try to contain the coronavirus outbreak. It also told Italians to avoid hugging and shaking hands to prevent as much as possible a further spread of the potentially deadly illness which has been mainly concentrated in the country’s northern regions.
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If the Italy-England match is unable to go ahead as planned in front of an attendance in excess of 50,000 at Stadio Olimpico, rugby’s authorities might follow the lead of Italian football authorities who are said to considering playing Serie A matches behind closed doors.
Facing a backlog of fixtures as the virus spreads, the head of the Italian FA suggested playing matches without crowds was an increasing likelihood. “We are heading towards that decision,” Vincenzo Spadafora told reporters when asked if the government was thinking of barring fans. “We will continue all activities and so will the league, but we will respect public health.”
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