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Dublin: 4°C Wednesday 21 April 2021

Six Nations to meet French authorities but hopeful of playing as planned

The championship is due to kick off in four weekends’ time.

Ireland are due to kick-off against Wales on 7 February in Cardiff.
Ireland are due to kick-off against Wales on 7 February in Cardiff.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

SIX NATIONS ORGANISERS will meet with French authorities this week amid fears over the viability of the 2021 championship, which is currently scheduled to start on 6 February.

The Six Nations remain optimistic that the tournament will unfold as planned, across five match weekends in empty stadiums in France, Ireland, and the UK.

There has also been an indication from French Rugby Federation president Bernard Laporte that the Six Nations will be played out over the coming months rather than pushed back to later this year.

The expected suspension of upcoming Champions Cup and Challenge Cup fixtures this month due to French clubs being asked not to play cross-border fixtures had raised fears over the viability of the Six Nations.

The French government has major concerns over the so-called ‘UK strain’ of Covid-19 and is keen for the Top 14 clubs not to play against opposition from the UK in the coming weeks amid the latest severe wave of the pandemic.

Champions Cup organisers EPCR are meeting with the LNR – which represents Top 14 clubs – today to discuss a possible new format for finishing out the 2021/21 European club season.

Among the options put forward in France is scrapping the last two rounds of pool games and going into a round of 16, then quarter-finals, semi-finals, and a final. Another possible solution is playing out the closing two rounds of pool games, then going straight into semi-finals and a final.

Six Nations sources have pointed out that their competition involves fewer teams, while les Bleus are not due to face UK opposition until the third weekend of the championship when are due to face Scotland in Paris on 28 February.

France’s opening two fixtures as scheduled see them travel to Italy and then Ireland.

The Six Nations has also dismissed the suggestion that the championship could be held in its entirety in one country. French authorities had put the idea forward as one possible way of negating some of the risk of spreading Covid-19.

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Six Nations organisers insist they have strengthened their Covid-19 protocols since the closing 2020 championship games were played last year.

“We are planning to hold the Championship as scheduled in each country with Covid-19 protocols that have been reinforced from the October/November period that saw the successful conclusion of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations and the Autumn Nations Cup,” reads an official Six Nations statement.

Meanwhile, FFR boss Laporte has moved to ease fears over the 2021 championship.

“It’s a puzzle, but I don’t think we should be alarmed about the Six Nations,” said Laporte on French radio station RMC.

“The tournament will be played with health protocols decided by the government. Everything went well in the autumn, it will be the same for the upcoming Six Nations. I’m not that worried.”

However, the Women’s Six Nations is set to be postponed until later this year, with April and May now seeming like the most likely window. An announcement is expected this week.

The U20s Six Nations is also set to be pushed back until later this year, with the expectation being that it will be rescheduled for this summer given that the World Rugby U20 Championship is currently not set to go ahead in 2021. 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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