The March 7 Ireland-Italy Aviva Stadium match was called off last Wednesday due to the threat of the spread of the coronavirus, and more postponements are possible particularly as England are due to travel to Rome to face the Italians on March 14.
Having agreed to the request from the IRFU and Irish health officials to call off the round four fixture in Dublin, tournament chiefs are now set to use World Rugby’s gathering next Monday in Paris for the second annual player welfare and laws symposium as the opportunity to fully discuss completion of the Six Nations.
With the reported case of the virus spiking in Italy and Italian rugby authorities cancelling all Guinness PRO14, national championship and youth games in their country this weekend, the loss of further Six Nations games to postponement could create quite a headache for officials as Premiership Rugby could wind up in a standoff with the Six Nations over the release of players who play in their league.
There are no restrictions regarding Eddie Jones’ England squad. They have an agreement whereby they can be released for Test team activity during out-of-window periods.
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The most ridiculous finish ever to a match
However, English clubs are under no obligation to release players from other nations such as Italy, Wales and Scotland outside of the Test window.
This, for instance, could result in Gloucester refusing to release their Italian duo Jake Polledri and Callum Braley if the Ireland-Italy match was rescheduled before the end of the season and clashed with an English league fixture.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 26, 2020
The alternative would be to play hold the postponed match over until the July or November Test windows later this year, while it is also possible that currently scheduled fixtures such as Italy-England in Rome could go ahead as planned but behind closed doors.
Not since 1972, when teams refused to travel to Ireland due to the Troubles, has the championship not been completed.
Postponed matches affected by the foot and mouth crisis in 2001 were held over until the following September and October of that year, the rescheduling culminating in Ireland denying England the Grand Slam with a final round win in Dublin.
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