Coronavirus leads to calls for Ireland-Italy Six Nations game to be cancelled

The measures will apply to all IRFU employees on a sliding scale. Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ireland's rugby union will hold an urgent meeting with the minister for health on Wednesday after he said its Six Nations rugby fixture against Italy in Dublin should not go ahead on March 7 due to the coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy.

A number of sporting events in Italy have been called off in the past week due to the coronavirus, including fixtures in Italian football's Serie A and Serie B, as the country stands as the worst-hit region by the virus in Europe, with more than 280 cases having been diagnosed.

"The very clear view of the public health emergency team was that this game should not go ahead," Irish minister for health Simon Harris told RTE on Tuesday, adding that he would consult with the Irish Rugby Football Union.

Harris announced that he would be meeting with the IRFU on Wednesday morning adding that the decision to recommend the postponement of the fixture was "not taken lightly."

After calling for the meeting to take place, the IRFU said it would not comment further until it gets an understanding of the governement's "strategic policy on travel to and from Ireland and the cancellation of mass gatherings."

The IRFU boss Phillip Browne has said that the body will comply with whatever decision the government comes to.

"At the end of the day the Government's here to lead the country," Browne told reporters. "I think it's somewhat unfair to be asking the IRFU to be making decisions like this."

The chief medical officer in Ireland's Department of Health, Tony Holohan, said in statement that the recommendation to cancel the match was based on the rapidly evolving nature of the outbreak in northern Italy, and on the consequent risk of importation of cases into Ireland should the game go ahead.

A spokeswoman for Six Nations said it was aware of the recommendation from the Irish Health Minister and will remain in close contact with the IRFU regarding the outcome of discussions with the Irish government.

Inter Milan's clash with Sampdoria was among three Serie A matches that were postponed last weekend after the deaths of two people infected with the coronavirus from China. Two PRO 14 rugby games were also called off.

The viral outbreak that began in China has infected more than 80,000 people and killed more than 2,700 globally. China has reported 2,715 deaths among 78,064 cases on the mainland.