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Ireland U20s, Ireland Women, and Munster among latest postponements

More rugby fixtures have been called off for now.

Updated Mar 10th 2020, 2:25 PM

THE SIX NATIONS has confirmed that the Ireland U20s and women’s meetings with France this weekend have been postponed.

Ireland Women were due to face the French in Lille on Sunday but that game will now be rescheduled after tournament organisers decided to postpone the fixture based on directives from the French authorities.

Similarly, the U20s’ planned meeting with France in Perpignan on Friday evening has been postponed.

Meanwhile, Munster’s clash with Italian side Benetton in Cork planned for 27 March is among the latest postponements in the Guinness Pro14.

aoife-doyle-celebrates-with-sene-naoupu-and-aoife-mcdermott-after-the-game Ireland Women won't play this weekend. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The postponement in France are frustrating for both Ireland teams, whose home fixtures against Italy in round four of the Six Nations were also postponed due to fears over the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Ireland Women had beaten Scotland and Wales in their two opening games of the Six Nations before suffering a defeat to England.

This is a huge year for Adam Griggs’ side, with a 2021 World Cup qualifying tournament to come in September. These postponements are far from ideal when Ireland Women had planned their build-up to the qualifying tournament in detail.

Meanwhile, the Ireland U20s are on track for a Grand Slam following their wins over Scotland, Wales and England.

Noel McNamara’s men now face the frustration of not knowing when or if they will get a chance at trying to complete that Grand Slam this year.

When the Italy game was postponed, it had been envisaged that it could be rescheduled for the weeks leading up to the start of the World Rugby U20 Championship in June, serving as a warm-up fixture for that competition but also allowing the Six Nations to be completed.

However, the World Championship itself is now in major doubt. It is scheduled to take place in Calvisano, Verona and Viadana in the north of Italy, much of which is now in lockdown as the country attempts to deal with its severe coronavirus outbreak.

ireland-players-celebrate-after-the-game The Ireland U20s are on course for a Grand Slam. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

It all means a very difficult time for the U20s players, who will hope that the World Championship and these postponed Six Nations games can be played well before they become overage for this grade.

While it might seem sensible to reschedule the games for later this year, most of these young players will have been hoping to have moved on from the U20s set-up to push for minutes with their provinces at that point.

The hope is that the World Championship will go ahead in June as currently planned, with these postponed Six Nations fixtures possibly serving as build-up fixtures.

Meanwhile, the Six Nations said that this weekend’s Six Nations games between Wales and Scotland in the senior men’s and U20s competitions will go ahead as planned.

“Further to yesterday’s press release announcing the postponement of the Guinness Six Nations match between France and Ireland, Six Nations can now confirm that the Women and U20 matches between the two countries have also been postponed,” reads a Six Nations statement.

“The Wales v Scotland Guinness Six Nations and U20 matches will go ahead as scheduled.

“Discussions with unions and federations are ongoing as it is of the utmost importance to find suitable dates for rescheduled matches while respecting the values and integrity of our championship.”

Meanwhile, the Pro14 has confirmed further postponements to games involving the Italian clubs.

Cardiff Blues’ home tie against Zebre on 21 March has been postponed, as has Munster’s clash with Benetton in Cork on 27 March.

a-view-of-the-guinness-pro14-logo-before-the-game Munster's clash with Benetton is among the latest Pro14 postponements. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

It means there are now six Pro14 fixtures involving the Italian teams that need to be rescheduled and while the tournament organisers insist they continue to work towards doing so, there is only so much space on the rugby calendar.

With uncertainty remaining around when the Italian clubs will be free to play again, the prospect of some fixtures being cancelled and recorded as 0-0 is increasingly real.

“PRO14 Rugby has been consistent in ensuring that it has the latest information and guidance made available by the local and national authorities via our participating unions in the UK, Ireland, Italy and South Africa,” reads a Pro14 statement.

“Currently in northern Italy, no unnecessary travel is permitted in or out of the Lombardy region and 14 other provinces, which include the cities of Treviso and Parma.

“These restrictions are in place until Friday, April 3, 2020 and PRO14 Rugby will remain in contact with the FIR (Italian Union), Zebre Rugby Club, Benetton Rugby and World Rugby to monitor situation on a regular basis.

“As previously indicated, PRO14 Rugby aims to reschedule these matches on dates during the European weekends in April and May. PRO14 Rugby is currently engaged with EPCR to avoid any scheduling conflicts with European knock-out games.

“As stated on February 28, in the event that no alternative dates can be found to ensure that a postponed fixture is fulfilled, the board of Celtic Rugby DAC has agreed that both teams will be awarded two match points and the game will be deemed a 0-0 draw.”

Postponed Pro14 fixtures:

R13: Zebre Rugby Club v Ospreys Rugby; Benetton Rugby v Ulster Rugby

R14: Cardiff Blues v Zebre Rugby Club; Benetton Rugby v Munster Rugby

R15: Munster Rugby v Benetton Rugby; Zebre Rugby Club v Connacht Rugby

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Murray Kinsella

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