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10 days out from Six Nations, organisers still await final decision from France

French authorities have expressed concerns over the ‘UK strain’ of Covid-19.

France are scheduled to visit Dublin on 14 February.
France are scheduled to visit Dublin on 14 February.
Image: Dave Winter/INPHO

THE SIX NATIONS is still waiting for final confirmation from the French government that its national team will be allowed to play all of their fixtures in the upcoming 2021 championship.

The Guinness Six Nations is due to get underway in just two 10 days’ time and while French authorities have given les Bleus the green light to travel to Rome to play Italy on Saturday 6 February, uncertainty remains about their other games.

French Minister of Sport, Roxana Mărăcineanu, has previously asked for stronger guarantees that Covid-19 protocols in Ireland and UK are as strict as those that exist in France.

The French government has concerns over the spread of the ‘UK strain’ of Covid-19.

France are scheduled to travel to Dublin to face Andy Farrell’s Ireland on 14 February before a home clash against Scotland, a trip to face England in London on 13 March, then another home game versus Wales.

With just 10 days until the Six Nations gets underway, organisers are still waiting for a final decision from the French.

“We have reinforced our testing protocols based on the evolving situation with the main point being we are doubling up on the testing and in the week prior to entering the international camp,” said Six Nations CEO Ben Morel today.

“In terms of the French authorities, we are in constant dialogue through the FFR [French rugby federation]. We have provided all our protocols, we have been considered as extremely robust, and we are seeking some of the clarification on the specific rules about quarantine exemptions, which would look at entry from the UK, whether it is re-entry for the French teams or entry for the other unions.

“We’re confident we will get the right authorisation. We’re waiting for the final confirmation.”

Asked what the Six Nations will do if the French government decides not to allow its national team to travel to or play against the other nations, Morel insisted he is confident that won’t be the case.

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ben-morel Six Nations CEO Ben Morel. Source: Guinness Six Nations/INPHO

“There isn’t a particular issue with Ireland,” said Morel. “Ireland is in the EU community and there is PCR testing required, and all our protocols are in place for that to happen. We don’t anticipate a problem there.

“The only thing we are waiting for a green light and clarification on is that seven-day isolation and to who that applies. At the same time, I think we’re confident based on our protocols that that will be a positive outcome.

“Generally elite sport benefits from widespread exemptions because they have stringent protocols. What we are awaiting is the detail on the exemption and we need to understand: is the exemption for the players, for the operational staff, for both?

“Anyone that is coming from the UK that doesn’t have an exemption, we need clarity on whether that applies and to whom – that is when you are coming from the UK or any other non-EU country. We believe that exemptions are being given on a case-by-case. That is the green light that we are waiting on.”

Morel said the Six Nations is looking at contingencies in the event that Scotland or Wales were forced to travel to Paris a week before their clashes with les Bleus, but again underlined his belief that won’t be necessary.

“We are confident in our ability to stage the matches at the right time, it’s more what logistical gymnastics we need to adapt to.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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