Six Nations chiefs are unlikely to switch England’s final Six Nations match with Italy from Rome to Twickenham on March 14 as it would give Eddie Jones’s team an unfair advantage on the final Saturday of the championship.
Despite the coronavirus outbreak in the northern part of the country, any potential change in venue for the match – including an unprecedented switch to Twickenham – would require the agreement of all six competing nations.
A report suggesting Newcastle could also be an alternative venue to Twickenham has been dismissed out of hand because Newcastle United are scheduled to play at home against Sheffield United on March 14.
The status of Italy’s home game with England is being questioned because a coronavirus lockdown in the Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto regions has already forced Italian rugby authorities to cancel Guinness PRO14, national championship and youth games next weekend.
Six Nations officials are in constant discussions with the Italian federation which is continuing with plans for Italy’s match with Ireland in Dublin on March 7 and there is a belief that any change to the final round of matches would have to be agreed before the start of next week for logistical reasons.
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Two Guinness PRO14 fixtures cancelled over Coronavirus fears
Thousands of England fans have bought flights, match tickets and made hotel bookings for the March 14 trip to Rome and a Six Nations spokesperson told RugbyPass on Tuesday: “The Six Nations is monitoring this situation very closely and is in regular contact with the Italian federation and all other unions and federations as well as the relevant local authorities and health organisations.”
The PRO14 has already been affected by the restrictions imposed to try and control the coronavirus outbreak with postponements affecting Ospreys;’ match with Zebre in Parma and Ulster’s game against Benetton in Treviso, while the Italian federation has also suspended its normal weekend programme of domestic fixtures.
Ireland’s minister for health, Simon Harris, has spoken about the impact of the Italian virus outbreak on plans for the March 7 Ireland-Italy match in Dublin. He said: “The rugby game is something that needs considerable consideration. This situation is evolving.
A very worrying time! https://t.co/wHujdsQKIz
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 25, 2020
“The weekend’s activities have shown there is still an awful lot unknown about the coronavirus and about the path it might take. There will be some big decisions in the coming days. Most particularly, I’m thinking of the Ireland-Italy game.”
The Italy vs Scotland women’s Six Nations was called off last weekend and in Italy’s high profile Serie A football league, Inter Milan vs Sampdoria was among four postponed games over the weekend. Thursday’s Europa League game between Inter and Ludogorets will now be played behind closed doors.
Organisers of the women’s Six Nations are currently looking to find a new date for the Italy-Scotland game. In the next round of matches, England host Wales at the Twickenham Stoop on March 7 before completing their campaign against Italy on March 15 in Padua.
England women’s away fixture with Scotland was postponed due to the severe weather conditions created by Storm Ciara in Glasgow. The game went ahead the following day behind closed doors at Murrayfield.
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