Six Nations: France want England, Ireland to provide safety guarantees
France is seeking reassurances from England and Ireland that their Six Nations matches can go ahead safely despite the coronavirus pandemic; France due to play Ireland in Dublin on February 14 and England at Twickenham on March 13; government approves opening fixture in Italy
By PA Media
Last Updated: 12/01/21 8:43pm
France's government is demanding reassurances on safety from England and Ireland before allowing its national side to visit those countries during the Six Nations.
Only the Championship's opening fixture against Italy in Rome on February 6 has been approved by Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu.
The French authorities have concerns over the soaring number of Covid-19 cases in the UK and Ireland and have already barred their clubs from taking part in European competition this month.
The Six Nations held talks in Paris on Tuesday and discussions will be ongoing as organisers attempt to convince the government that sufficient coronavirus protocols are in place.
It is highly unlikely the tournament would go ahead without France, who play Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on February 14 and England at Twickenham on March 13.
"We keep the first match," Maracineanu said. "On the other hand, against Ireland and England we absolutely need to have the necessary guarantees from these countries.
"There has to be proof that the other nations' virus framework respects the same requirements in terms of precaution. We expect the same thing from the other teams."
The Women's Six Nations and Under-20s competitions, which are traditionally run in tandem with the men's, are set to be postponed until April and May with official confirmation of their delay expected on Wednesday.
The Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have been suspended temporarily amid the ongoing impact of coronavirus, competition organisers European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) has announced.
Two rounds of pool games in both European club competitions - due to be held on the weekends of January 15-17 and 22-24 - have been postponed as authorities react to the impact of a new strain of Covid-19.
The French government had advised - but not ordered - their teams to avoid cross-border matches on Saturday.
Premiership to take two-week break
Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter and Bristol Bears counterpart Pat Lam had stated their belief that Premiership games should be moved forward to free up fixture schedule space with games now likely to pile up for English clubs.
That would potentially create room for the pool matches in both European tournaments to be completed later this season on two current Premiership weekends.
However, shortly after the announcement that the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup were to be suspended, Premiership Rugby revealed they would be having a fortnight's hiatus.
Premiership Rugby chief executive, Darren Childs said: "The welfare of everyone involved in Premiership Rugby is crucial to us and this break in the season gives us the chance to hand some much-needed rest to our hard-working players, management, staff and match officials.
"The Gallagher Premiership Rugby season will return - as scheduled - on Friday 29 January when Bristol Bears host Bath Rugby."