The issue was raised in Parliament today, after Irish Minister for Health Simon Harris yesterday urged Ireland’s contest with Italy on the 8th of March to not go ahead in Dublin. With Italy experiencing hundreds of cases of the virus, the match has subsequently been postponed.
With England due to travel to Rome the week later, that fixture has also been thrown into doubt as the coronavirus has started to spread through Italy and Europe.
This is what Hancock said in the House of Commons: “[The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] are involved in the cross government decision making on these things.
“Our goal is to minimise social disruption of which this is an important part for any rugby fan, subject to keeping the public safe and these are difficult balances to strike sometimes and I’ll be discussing it with the new secretary of state and DCMS.”
Will coronavirus affect upcoming sports events?
Kevin Brennan MP points to the Six Nations rugby between England and Italy in March
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) February 26, 2020
This is not the first time that the Six Nations has been disrupted in this way, as the 2001 Championship was affected by foot-and-mouth. Ireland’s fixtures against the home nations that year were postponed until September and October.
The IRFU have said that they are complying with the direction of the Irish Department of Health on the matter. A statement from the union reads: “The IRFU had a positive meeting with Minister Harris and his advisors today, where we requested a formal instruction as to the staging of the Ireland v Italy international matches over the weekend of 6/8 March.
“At the outset we made it clear that the IRFU was supportive of the Governments’ need to protect public health in relation to the Coronavirus.”
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