England’s Six Nations game against Italy in Rome next week has been postponed by tournament organisers due to the coronavirus outbreak, multiple reports in the British media said on Thursday.
The March 14 clash was set to take place behind closed doors after the Italian government ordered all sporting events be held without fans to in a bid to curb Europe’s worst outbreak of the virus that has resulted in over 3,000 cases and killed 107 in Italy.
Six Nations organisers had already postponed Saturday’s match between Ireland and Italy.
Broadcaster ITV is reported to have decided not to send a commentary team to Rome even if the game goes ahead with coverage to be based in London instead.
Former England coach Clive Woodward said organisers had to look at the bigger picture and call off the tournament after this weekend’s action.
“There are some things much more important than sport and when something like the coronavirus comes along, rugby has to step into line, take advice from the experts and do what is right,” Woodward wrote in a column for the Daily Mail.
“Sport has to be flexible and change its plans and, in my opinion, the sooner the better to minimise the disruption for everybody. There is a far bigger picture.”
A number of international sporting events have been hit by the flu-like virus that has killed over 3,200 people globally and infected more than 94,000 after originating in China late last year.
Woodward, who guided England to World Cup glory in 2003, said that he expected sport in Britain to be in “lockdown” by the end of the month.
“As for the Six Nations, I would suggest this will be the final weekend. I don’t see how any of the games next weekend can, in good faith, be allowed to take place,” he said.
“Unless I’m mistaken the situation is going to get worse before it gets better and although we have escaped relatively unscathed in the U.K. so far, we have to prepare for the worst.”