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Coronavirus: Six Nations rugby match between Ireland and Italy postponed
26 February 2020, 15:06
The Six Nations rugby match between Ireland and Italy in Dublin has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Both the men's and women's fixtures scheduled on 7 and 8 March have been called off, Ireland's Rugby Football Union (IRFU) announced on Wednesday.
An under-20s Six Nations game was also supposed to take place that weekend, but that too has been postponed.
Representatives from the IRFU met with Ireland's Health Minister Simon Harris and his advisers after the politician said on Tuesday evening that the games should not go ahead.
In a statement, the IRFU said: "The IRFU had a positive meeting with Minister Harris and his advisers today, where we requested a formal instruction as to the staging of the Ireland v Italy international matches over the weekend of March 6/8.
"At the outset, we made it clear that the IRFU was supportive of the Government's need to protect public health in relation to the coronavirus."
The IRFU continued: "We were then advised, formally, that the National Public Health Emergency team has determined that the series of matches should not proceed, in the interests of public health.
"The IRFU is happy to comply with this instruction.
"We will immediately begin to work with our Six Nations partners to look at the possibility of rescheduling the matches, and would hope to have an update on this in the coming days."
Prior to the cancellations, chief medical officer at the Irish Department of Health, Tony Holohan, said the decision to call for the cancellation of the match was "not made lightly."
The English rugby team are due to visit Rome on the final day of the tournament on 14 March, but following today's postponement that fixture is looking increasingly in doubt.
Dr Holohan said that it was "the only responsible decision that could have been made".
China has reported just short of 80,000 cases and 2,663 deaths following the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus that has spread to a variety of countries, including Italy, where authorities have swiftly put in restrictions and some towns are on lockdown.
Twelve people have died from the disease in Italy and the country has reported a total of 374 cases.
Elsewhere, the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships, due to take place in Seoul next month, have also been cancelled because of the disease.
The International Skating Union confirmed the news as the number of cases in South Korea was reported to have exceeded 1,000.
In a statement, the ISU said: "The ISU was informed through the Korea Skating Union that the competent authorities of the city of Seoul ordered the closing of the Mokdong Ice Rink and the cancellation of all planned competitions.
"The ISU, therefore, is unable to hold the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2020 at the above-mentioned planned date."
The Football Association is also holding internal discussions at Wembley to discuss the implications of the virus.
Italy are due to play England at Wembley in a friendly on 27 March and the FA is meeting to discuss that match as well as other matters related to the outbreak.
This summer's Euro 2020 competition is likely to be another topic of discussion for sporting bodies.
Italian authorities have put restrictions in place in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease, with Inter Milan's Europa League match at home to Ludogorets set to be played behind closed doors on Thursday, on the back of four Serie A matches being postponed last weekend.