The Ireland v Italy men’s and women’s Six Nations games scheduled for Dublin next weekend have been postponed because of the coronavirus.
Irish health minister Simon Harris said last night that the men’s Six Nations game scheduled for 7 March should not go ahead.
The women’s game scheduled for the following day and the under-20 game on 6 March have also been postponed.
“At the outset we made it clear that the IRFU was supportive of the government’s need to protect public health in relation to the coronavirus”, the Irish Rugby Football Union said in a statement.
“We were then advised, formally, that the National Public Health Emergency team has determined that the series of matches should not proceed, in the interests of public health.”
“The IRFU is happy to comply with this instruction.”
IRFU added: “We will immediately begin to work with our Six Nations partners to look at the possibility of rescheduling the matches and would hope to have an update on this in the coming days.”
Ireland’s chief medical officer said the decision to cancel the match was not made lightly.
Tony Holohan said it was “the only responsible decision that could have been made”.
“What was of concern to us was the nature of the mass gathering, a large group of people coming together from an affected area where we don’t believe we fully understand the community transmission pattern in that area.”
The decision comes after an outbreak in northern Italy has led to 300 confirmed cases and 11 deaths.
The outbreak in the Lombardy and Veneto regions has already led to a decision to play five Serie A football matches behind closed doors this weekend.