6N: Italy-England match in Rome postponed because of virus

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              England's head coach Eddie Jones watches as his team prepares for the Six Nations international rugby union match between England and Ireland at Twickenham stadium in London, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
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MILAN (AP) — Italy’s Six Nations rugby match against England next week was postponed on Thursday because of the virus outbreak in the country.

Italy’s visit to Ireland in Dublin scheduled for this Saturday was already postponed, but tournament organizers insisted all of the remaining matches in the last two rounds were going ahead as scheduled.

The decision to put off the Italy-England men’s, women’s and under-20 matches in Italy over March 14-15 followed the decree from the Italian government on Wednesday that all sporting events in Italy must take place without spectators until April 3. Schools and universities throughout the country have been shut until March 15.

The COVID-19 virus has infected more than 3,000 people and caused more than 100 deaths in Italy.

Because of the government decree, Six Nations organizers had a choice to play the matches with no spectators or postpone them. They decided to play them at later dates yet to be determined.

“The decision has now been taken to postpone the three matches between Italy and England (men’s, women’s, and U20) … with the intention to reschedule them at later dates,” tournament organizers said in a statement.

“Six Nations fully intends to complete all 15 games across all three championships when time allows. We will refrain from making any rescheduling announcements while we keep assessing the situation.”

After the men’s match in Rome on March 14 in the final round, the women’s match was in Padua and the under-20s in Verona on March 15.

The postponements could mean it will be some time before a winner of the men’s Six Nations is known, unless, France, the only team unbeaten, wins out against Scotland at Murrayfield this weekend and Ireland in Paris next week to clinch a Grand Slam.

The postponement of Italy-England also means Sergio Parisse’s swansong is delayed yet again. Parisse was set to mark his retirement from international rugby with a final appearance for the Azzurri in Rome.

The 36-year-old Parisse, Italy’s most capped player, had been expected to play his final match at the Rugby World Cup in October, but the biggest typhoon to hit Japan in 60 years arrived and Italy’s last pool match against New Zealand was cancelled.