British & Irish Lions

Ireland preparing 'properly' for France amid coronavirus worries

Andy Farrell (AFP)
Andy Farrell (AFP)

Dublin - Ireland coach Andy Farrell has said his squad are continuing with preparations to play France after their Six Nations fixture at home to Italy fell victim to concerns over the coronavirus.

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The match between Ireland and Italy at Dublin's Lansdowne Road has been postponed on public health grounds and Six Nations chiefs are set to meet in Paris on Monday to decide if other fixtures in this season's Championship will need to be put on hold as a result of the global spread of COVID-19.

England's planned Six Nations finale in Rome on March 14 could be under threat given the virus' proliferation in northern Italy but Farrell added there were no guarantees that Ireland's match against unbeaten France in Paris on the same day would go ahead.

"We don't know. That's the answer - we don't know," Farrell told reporters at a Dublin press conference on Friday.

"All we can do is prepare properly as if the game is going ahead," added Farrell, whose side remain in title contention despite seeing their Grand Slam hopes disappear with a 24-12 loss away to England, captained by his son, Owen Farrell, last time out.

"We've been in for a few days this week and that was the normal preparation that we were going to have anyway."

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton added: "There's nothing worse than a long wait now, but it is what it is...We've got to look at the positives, that we can have a bit of time and develop some things together now.

"We just would have preferred if it was just two weeks (between matches), but it's not, it's three and that's the bottom line and we've just got to get over it," the star flyhalf added.

Rescheduling the Italy match is difficult given the lack of space in rugby union's crowded fixture schedule.

But with the window for earning ranking points for the draw of the 2023 World Cup in France closing in November, Ireland will want to play an Italy side that have lost their last 25 Six Nations matches rather than see the game cancelled completely.

There is also the option to play matches behind closed doors.

"There's a few dates being bounced about but they're just ideas at this point in time, so we haven't got a clue really," Farrell said.

"We obviously want to play the game...We're disappointed but it's the right decision. There are more important things than a game of rugby."

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