Italy’s five-year Guinness Six Nations losing streak could be put on hold, but not for the reasons their critics want.

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Chucking the Azzurri out of the competition has been a regular refrain in recent years as they have failed to win a match since beating Scotland in February 2015.

Last Saturday’s home loss to the Scots in Rome was their record 25th in succession. However, that hapless run might now not stretch to 27 as expected by the middle of March due to health and safety fears in Italy and Ireland.

Last Sunday’s women’s Six Nations clash between Scotland and Italy in Milan was called off due to a coronavirus lockdown in the Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto regions in the north of the country and already the two Guinness PRO14 fixtures scheduled for Parma and Treviso next weekend have been postponed for similar reasons.

That development has led to fears that the Italians might not be able to complete their Six Nations programmes as planned with the March 7 trip to Dublin to play Ireland set to be followed by the March 14 home game in Rome versus World Cup finalists England.

(Continue reading below…)

Two Guinness PRO14 fixtures cancelled over coronavirus fears

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Irish health minister Simon Harris, speaking about the upcoming round four match at the Aviva Stadium, said: “The rugby game is something that needs particular consideration because of the involvement of Italy. We will act in accordance with the best health advice.

“We have been preparing for the virus since January. We have put a national public health emergency team in place and they have done very good work. Ireland will work in unison with the European Union. We live in the EU where there is free movement of people. It makes sense we move together in this.”

As it stands, all of the international fixtures involving Italy in Ireland are scheduled to go ahead – the under-20s game in Cork on March 6 being following by the March 7 men’s match and the March 8 women’s game, both in Dublin.

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The restrictions in Italy that forced PRO14 officials to call off their next two fixtures in that country are currently only in place until March 1.

There has been speculation that England could possibly move their away game with the Italians to Twickenham or even Newcastle, but Six Nations is continuing with its plans as currently scheduled.

Ireland were involved in the last men’s Six Nations match to be postponed, their February 2012 game versus France in Paris falling victim to frost. That match was fitted in a few weeks later and the tournament managed to finish on time as per schedule.

However, the previous occasion there was a health scare, the movement of people was restricted and the tournament was delayed. The 2001 foot and mouth disease resulted in over six million cows and sheep being killed in an eventually successful attempt to halt the disease in the UK. It led to Ireland’s matches away to Scotland and Wales along with the home game versus England being held over until the following September and October of that year.

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