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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 20 November, 2019
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Liveblog

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This evening’s Six Nations match between France and Ireland was called off minutes before kick-off due to an unplayable pitch. We were all set to liveblog the action; instead, we ended up liveblogging a postponement.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this evening’s events. E-mail niall@thescore.ie, tweet @thescore_iepost a message to our Facebook wall, or leave a comment below.

France P-P Ireland

Evening all and welcome to this evening’s liveblog. It’s a cold night in Paris, but the covers are off in the Stade de France. Kick-off is at 8pm, so I’ll just pull on my mittens and my woolly hat and we’ll have the team news.

First things first, here’s Ireland. Jonny Sexton has been cleared to play despite an injury scare; he starts at 10 with Ronan O’Gara on the bench and Paddy Wallace regretting his flight out to Paris.

Ireland: R Kearney; Bowe, Earls, D’Arcy, Trimble; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best, Ross; O’Callaghan, O’Connell; Ferris, O’Brien, Heaslip. Replacements: Cronin, Court, Ryan, O’Mahony, Reddan, O’Gara, McFadden.

And here’s the French side. Philippe Saint-Andre has made four changes from the side which beat Italy 30-12 here last Saturday. Morgan Parra comes in at scrum-half to replace the injured Dimitri Yachvili, who pulled out of the squad on Thursday with a back problem.

France: Medard; Clerc, Rougerie, Fofana,  Malzieu; Trinh-Duc, Parra; Poux, Szarzewski, Mas; Pape, Maestri; Dusautoir (c), Harinordoquy, Picamoles. Replacements: Servat, Debaty, Nallet, Bonnaire, Dupuy, Beauxis, Mermoz.

There is a rather serious-looking conference currently taking place pitchside involving Declan Kidney, Philippe Saint-Andre, referee Dave Pearson and some other officious folk. The jist of it seems to be that nobody is quite sure if the Stade de France pitch is in fact playable. More on that as soon as we get it, obviously — it’s rather important.

Not to steer too far clear of rugby matters, but here’s a quick weather-related catch up.

France is currently in the middle of a rather nasty cold snap, with temperatures forecast to drop as low as -7C this evening. There’s no undersoil heating in the Stade de France, but the pitch has been covered all week and they’ve been using air heaters (think industrial-strength hairdryers) to keep the ground temperature above freezing.

Referee Dave Pearson inspected the pitch yesterday afternoon and passed it playable. He inspected the pitch again when the covers came off at 6.15 Irish time this evening, and passed it playable.

But now, the pitch is freezing again and the game appears to be in jeopardy. Let’s wait and see what the outcome of this pitchside meeting is.

It looks very much like this one is off, folks. Pitch unplayable due to freezing conditions.

MATCH POSTPONED – PITCH UNPLAYABLE DUE TO FREEZING CONDITIONS

That’s it unfortunately, folks. We’ll keep you posted on all the latest.

Earlier in the week, we were told that if the game was postponed, it will be refixed for 2 March. Awaiting confirmation on that, but the early indicators are that that will be case.

What an absolute mess. It’s 9:05pm in France, there are 80,000 people in a stadium — many of whom travelled from Ireland — and there’s no game.

Obviously player safety is paramount, and this decision had to be taken, but surely it could have been taken a bit earlier. Like, Wednesday?

I have to say, I appreciated Frank Jones’ humour in the comments section:

We wont be beaten!! Well, not tonight

Some poor lady from RBS Six Nations has been given the honour of officially informing the crowd that the game is off. Judging by their whistles, they’re not happy. Who can blame them?

The players from both sides are now down on the pitch, standing around looking rather glum. They’re just going to do some warm-up/down drills, and that’ll be it for them this evening.

Deccie has been on BBC2. Here’s what he had to say:

“I think the referee has made the right decision.

“International rugby isn’t something where you turn up and go for a friendly jog around. But they’re great lads and they’ll settle down again.”

Asked about a refixed date for the game, Kidney suggested that there is a slight possibility that the game could be refixed for next weekend. The other option is 2 March, which is the Friday night after Ireland play Italy in Dublin. The final call rests with the Six Nations organisers, and they should make a call by Monday at the latest.

The good lads at Whiff of Cordite have just been in touch to inform me that there is a Top 14 game between Stade Francais and Toulon scheduled for the Stade de France next Saturday, 18 February. Obviously, that changes things slightly in relation to a new date, but I’m sure somebody in the Six Nations is getting paid big bucks to take that into account.

So, to recap the evening’s main points:

  • France v Ireland has been postponed due to an unplayable pitch.
  • No date has been officially confirmed for the refixed game — although there is a chance it could be played on Friday 2 March.
  • Declan Kidney has said that he expects a decision to be made by Monday at latest.

To answer a question that seems to be floating around a bit — no, I don’t know how a stadium that is less than 20 years old has no undersoil heating.

That’s all I’ve got for you, folks. A massively disappointing evening for all involved, not least those fans who shelled out to travel to Paris.

But, as always, player safety is paramount and it was pretty apparent by kick-off time that the Stade de France pitch was unplayable. Why that decision couldn’t have been taken sooner isn’t clear, but I’m sure we’re not done talking yet.

We’ll be back tomorrow for Wales v Scotland. See you then.

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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